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What is Cupping and why are all the Olympic Athletes doing it?

Viewers watching the Olympics this weekend may have spotted the pepperoni-like bruises on athletes and wondered: What is that?  This is the caused by the effect of cupping. 

Cupping is a therapy in which heated glass cups are applied to the skin along the meridians of the body, creating suction as a way of stimulating the flow of energy.

Olympians at Rio have taken to cupping -- an ancient therapy that have mostly been used in Middle Eastern and Asian countries, especially China.

The therapy consists of having round glass suction cups that are warmed, then placed on sore parts of the body. The placement of the glass cup creates a partial vacuum, which is believed to stimulate muscles and blood flow, while relieving pain.

Michael Phelps, US gymnast Alex Naddour and Belarus swimmer Pavel Sankovich have all posted pictures of their polka dotted limbs and backs.

There's little to no medical evidence that cupping has any benefit, said Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and a former sideline physician for the New York Jets.

“There are studies on this, but they aren’t well done,” Glatter said.

In 2012, a review of 135 studies on cupping found it had some benefit for shingles, facial paralysis, acne and age-related wear and tear of the spinal disks of the neck. But authors of the review noted that the studies weren’t carefully done, so their results weren’t very valuable.

The review found cupping had no benefit for sore muscles.

That doesn't mean cupping is useless, Glatter said.

Cupping could work as a placebo, giving elite athletes a psychological boost, Glatter said. In other words, cupping works because people think it works. “When people feel better, they may perform better,” Glatter said. “But in terms of performance and power, (Phelps) already got that in the bag.”

Phelps showed snippets of his cupping therapy on his Instagram as well as his Under Armour commercial.

Even Questlove of the Roots has taken to cupping. 

It's not the first time cupping has made the rounds. Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Simpson have all been spotted with the marks in previous years.