If you watched NBC’s coverage of the Olympics swimming competition on Sunday night, you may have noticed some strange-looking purples spots covering the back and shoulders of America’s top swimmer, Michael Phelps:
— Teeeeeek (@BlammaLamma5) August 8, 2016
There was plenty of concern, and no small amount of curiosity, swirling around social media after the most decorated Olympian of all time appeared on camera with the perfectly round, purplish spots all over his skin.
Why does Michael Phelps look like someone threw tennis balls at him with the dark spots all over his back
— Matt Voit (@THEREAL_MV25) August 8, 2016
*furiously googles “what are those spots all over Michael Phelps”*
— Nicole Popp (@nicoleigh9) August 8, 2016
What’s with all the gross spots all over Michael Phelps? Is it from swimming in contaminated Rio water? — DudeFoods.com (@DudeFoods) August 8, 2016
my mom just asked if the red spots on Michael Phelps are Zika — mercedes (@muhmuhmercedes) August 8, 2016
Fortunately, the internet was quick to weigh in with helpful answers:
For those wondering, the Huge red pepperoni spots on Michael Phelps are his gills. — The Dallas Denali (@Sunspots1) August 8, 2016
Those spots on Michael Phelps are his gills. — Tyler Wilson (@TylerWilson86) August 8, 2016
Okay, maybe not so helpful. Fortunately, it’s nothing horrible, like a rash from the Zika virus, and as far as we know, Phelps hasn’t caught caught anything dreadful from the feces-infested water in Rio. Instead, the spots are the result of a therapy Phelps has been using to improve his performance.
Next page: Learn about the ancient Chinese therapy Phelps has been using and find out about another athlete you might see sporting the spots at the Olympics.
Wondering what these circles on Michael Phelps and some other athletes are? They are marks from a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique called cupping. Cupping promotes blood flow, tissue healing and reduces pain. If alternative medicine is good enough for the most decorated Olympian of all time, than it’s good enough for me! #MichaelPhelps #Rio2016 #TeamUSA #GoGold
Chinese cupping therapy is a centuries old treatment that increases blood flow to the area and promotes healing and relaxation. A plastic cup is attached to the skin and suction is created with a pump. Although it can leave bruises on the skin for several days, it is reportedly not painful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L94OETMNzWQ American gymnast Alex Naddour has also been spotted with cupping marks on his body:
Whenever really awesome Olympic gymnasts use #cuppingtherapy and all of your clients tag you in this photo because they know that’s your specialty service A photo posted by Rebecca Brumfield- VidaPuraSpa (@vidapuraspa) on
While some people thought they might want to try cupping for their ailments, there was also plenty of skepticism about it.
Cupping, KT tape, those magnetic bracelets. Athletes seem to buy a lotta pseudoscience — Oliver Willis (@owillis) August 8, 2016
Whether or not it works, we wish Phelps and the rest of the U.S. Olympic team the best of luck!