Cupping looks more painful than it is, though it can be very intense. Traditional cupping therapy is used in Chinese medicine to move blood and energy flow. You can use glass cups or plastic, and with heat or a pump, suction is created in the cup and pulls at your tissue. The suction, particularly if left in one place, leaves circular, red marks on your skin. Swimmer Michael Phelps was often seen with red cupping marks during the Rio Olympics last year.
Suction cups can increase blood flow, and could be one way of providing pain relief after an injury.
In traditional Chinese medicine, cupping is used to treat ailments ranging from the common cold to arthritis to muscle pain; many acupuncturists offer it. Causey uses it mainly to relieve pain, she says. Research backs up cupping as a tool to treat pain, which is what athletes tend to focus on.
Read more at http://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/does-cupping-help-anyone-other-than-olympic-swimmers/