August 12, 2016
Most Americans are proud to see swimmer Michael Phelps set records and add to our country’s Olympic medal tally on the international stage. However, not everyone is thrilled with the attention he’s been getting, not just for his wins, but also for his enthusiastic endorsements of an ancient Chinese remedy known as cupping therapy. A quick glance at the news stories on the topic over the past few days makes it clear that the mainstream media in America is not above attacking the country’s most decorated Olympian for espousing holistic health treatments.
In a piece for The Atlantic entitled “Please, Michael Phelps, Stop Cupping”, James Hamblin, MD, attacks Phelps for his affinity with the practice. He does not seem to be too bothered by the idea of one man turning to the therapy on his own, but he is clearly very worried about the prospect of a massive audience gaining interest in the practice and turning to solutions outside of conventional medicine in general.
The lead of his article indicates where it is headed: “The bruises on the swimmer’s body come from a ‘therapy’ intended to improve blood flow. It actually causes blood to clot.” Note the mocking use of quotation marks around the word “therapy.”
The article is peppered with sarcastic references to Phelps’ marijuana use – another alternative treatment – in an attempt to destroy his credibility.
He writes: “So in terms of role-model behavior, cupping may be more deleterious than a grainy bong photo, because it invites people to distrust science.”
He points to a lack of studies on cupping to support his stance. When he says there’s no science to prove it works, he fails to point out that there is also no science to say it does not work. The studies that do exist have found some evidence that it can help, but most agree that further studies are needed. In any case, people from the ancient Chinese to the world’s top athletes in the modern day say it works for them.
Hamblin also says that studies aren’t important to those who profit from cupping. It’s understandable that he would think that way. After all, studies showing the harms of vaccines don’t seem too important to those who profit from them, and the same can be said for studies showing the harms of various prescription medications.
Not everyone is mocking cupping
Taking a decidedly different stance, Douglas Main defends Phelps in Newsweek, saying he may actually be right about cupping in the headline of his article. He points to several studies that show there may be something to it, citing a 2014 review published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences that found the practice could reduce short-term pain more than heat therapy or conventional drugs.
It’s that last part, of course – cupping being more effective for pain than conventional drugs – that has Big Pharma and its mouthpieces feeling very threatened every time an athlete emerges covered in cupping marks and starts talking about how great it makes them feel. They probably weren’t too pleased when gymnast Alex Naddour said that cupping was his secret to success and that it was the best money he’s ever spent.
Could all the world’s top athletes be wrong?
Surely the most decorated Olympian in history has a team of experts at his disposal who advise him on matters such as preparation, training, performance, healing and recovery. The Atlantic article makes him out to be a complete idiot who is doing something obscure and crazy, yet anyone who has actually watched the Olympics on TV will have noticed countless swimmers and other athletes with similar cupping marks on their bodies. If the world’s top athletes are turning to this therapy, does that mean they are all idiots buying into an ill-advised fad?
This attack on an athlete who deserves our respect is actually the sort of thing we’ve come to expect from the mainstream media: glossing over the dangers of vaccines, antidepressants and other prescription medications in the face of strong evidence, while deriding any form of alternative medicine that threatens the bottom line of the Big Pharma firms that bring them advertising dollars.