Of cups and tapes . . .
Many wondered at the strange circular bruises on Michael Phelps until it was revealed that they were the marks left by cupping, a therapy in Chinese medicine in which heated glass cups are applied to the skin along the meridians of the body, creating suction and believed to stimulate the flow of energy.
Cupping in action
Michael Phelps with cupping bruises
It’s not banned and whether it works or not, some athletes believe it does. It may therefore give a psychological boost.
It’s the same with kinesio tape, the coloured tape that a lot of athletes wear when competing.
The tape was developed in 1979 and was first seen in Olympic competition in 2008. It is a thin, elastic cotton tape that can stretch up to 140% of its original length. The main manufacturers are Kinesio and KT Tape.
What does it do?
Kinesio's website says their tape "alleviates discomfort and facilitates lymphatic drainage by microscopically lifting the skin." They say that it can be "applied over muscles to reduce pain and inflammation, relax overused or tired muscles, and support muscles in movement on a 24-hour-a-day basis."
According to KT Tape's site, their tape is applied "to provide a lightweight, external support that helps you remain active while recovering from injuries. KT Tape creates neuromuscular feedback (called proprioception) that inhibits (relaxes) or facilitates stronger firing of muscles and tendons."
As with the cupping, the claimed benefits haven’t been proved but if you believe it works, it may well do so.