Is Cupping Effective For Golf?

Is Cupping Effective For Golf?

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was sporting the telltale signs of cupping during the Summer Games in Rio. Looking as though he had wrestled an octopus, more than eight rings were visible on his body.

What is cupping?

The vacuum from the heated air pulls the skin partially into the cup, causing a large bruise.
The vacuum from the heated air pulls the skin partially into the cup, causing a large bruise.

Cupping is an ancient healing practice that claims to rid the body of toxins, recirculate stagnant blood and ease sore muscles. It involves heating the air inside a glass cup (often with a lit cotton ball), and then quickly placing it on the skin in the area of distress. Because the air is heated, it results in a vacuum that pulls the skin partially into the cup, causing a large bruise.

Phelps isn’t the only fan of cupping; other celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Anniston and Samuel L. Jackson are enthusiasts of it as well. With cupping popular in the media, we have to ask, is it beneficial for golfers?

Cupping for Golfers

Over a lifetime, 75 to 85 percent of Americans will experience back pain. Avid golfers are of increased risk; the rotational stress of the golf swing places pressure on the spine and muscles. Neck injuries are also common in golf. After a few hours of swinging the club and hitting balls, the neck muscles may spasm and freeze the neck. These are two golf ailments that cupping therapy may help reduce.

The air inside the cup is often heated with a lit cotton ball.
The air inside the cup is often heated with a lit cotton ball.

According to the Golden Wellness Center, “Cupping is a very effective and safe treatment for back pain. Cupping is able to loosen stiff muscles, unblock pinched nerves, and unbind Myofascial adhesions. The suction draws the blood to the surface and helps to relax tight and bound muscle tissue. This therapy is very good for when there is a lot of stagnant blood and Qi.”

The Center uses cupping in conjunction with acupuncture and massage to increase muscle relaxation and pain relief. When used together, these three therapies help combat elements that may be pulling your spine out of alignment.

Flexibility is Important

Mike Bittel, CFO of LinksWalker, a golf retailer in Florida, says finding therapies that reduce sore muscles are a great solution for golfers who are trying to improve their alignment.

Flexibility is important for your golf game, loose neck muscles allow you to keep your eye on the ball without compromising your stance. The rotation for a good back swing can be as much as 70 degrees. If you have poor flexibility in your neck, it will result in an inconsistent golf game, and thus, affect your alignment off the tee. A stiff neck will actually cause your head to move too much in the backswing. Typically, warm up stretches for the neck and back are recommended for golfers, but cupping is quickly becoming a popular post-game routine for many athletes,” states Bittel.

The cups are quickly placed on the skin in the area of distress.
The cups are quickly placed on the skin in the area of distress.

How do you judge whether your neck is flexible? Golf experts advise laying on your back and turning your head to the side. You should be able to touch your ear to the floor with your nose pointing directly over your shoulder. If you’re not able to do this with relative ease, it is a sign your muscles are stiff.

The Olympics have already seen their share of fads, from the popular arthritis copper bracelets to the Kineseo tape that boasts a number of health benefits. Certified athletic trainers seldom dissuade pro athletes from trying the latest trend, because if the product is safe and ethical, even a placebo can improve an athlete’s performance. Cupping certainly appears to have a growing number of devotees touting its uses despite lack of scientific research. Only time will tell whether cupping becomes prevalent in golf, although it has definitely left its mark on the Olympics.

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