If a guy who has won 22 Olympic gold medals is a convert to a particular therapy to improve his performance then surely it is well worth the rest of us looking it up.

Michael Phelps has been talking recently on his use of ‘cupping’ to aid recovery.

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Thanks @arschmitty for my cupping today!!! #mpswim #mp 📷 @chasekalisz

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Frankly we were initially even afraid to even Google ‘cupping’ from a work computer in case it turned out to be a euphemistic phrase for something kinky and unspeakable and we were asked to clear our desk.

Certainly not in its favour is the big round love-bite bruises that it leaves all over its proponents.

But it turns out cupping is a Chinese therapy that has been around thousands of years to treat pain, swelling, muscle knots and the like, as well as to aid recovery after a tough workout.

Doctor Weidong Zhang, who runs the Aneugene Health Clinic in Clapham Junction, told us: “It is a very, very old treatment that has been in China for a long, long time. We use a glass, not like a normal drinking cup, the edge is quite thick.

“We apply the cup on a certain area and make the inside a vacuum. The skin and muscle go into the cup and the blood flows into that area.

“After ten to 15 minutes we take off the cup and the area will appear with the black or purple marks. That is where the marks have come from.”

Not everyone is convinced at the effectiveness – or even safety – of cupping but Dr Zhang told us it could be used for lots of complaints and was ‘very, very safe’.

He said: “It can be used to treat various problems. Very common is sports people with joint aches and muscle aches. It will release all the aches and ease the pain.

“It also makes your whole body relax. The most common area the cup is applied is the back and it can be put on the shoulder. Some even use the cups to help lose weight – they will put the cups on their tummy.”

Dr Zhang said people have even used cupping to treat cellulite but most of his clients tended to use it for lower back pain, shoulder pain and knee pain.

Treatment is painful, he said, and the amount of discomfort depends on how much suction is created and typically lasts 20 to 30 minutes, costing £20.

Where can I try it?

Aneugene Health Care in Battersea Park Road, Clapham Junction. Aneugene.com

Healthy Indigo in Lordship Lane, East Dulwich. 

The London Cupping Clinic in Trinity Road, Upper Tooting. Londoncuppingclinic.com

Ginseng Tang Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Clinic in Burnt Ash Road, Lee. 

Herbs and Acupuncture Healthcare in Godstone Road, Purley. Hahealthcare.co.uk

Naturcare in London Road, North Cheam. Naturcarecenter.co.uk

Body Benefit Therapy in Browning Avenue, Worcester Park. Bodybenefittherapy.co.uk

Water Lily Health and Beauty in Brewers Lane, Richmond. Waterlilyacupuncture.co.uk

Cadence Acupuncture in Lavender Hill, Battersea. Cadenceacupuncture.co.uk

Real Relaxation Clinic in High Street, Whitton. Realrelaxationclinic.com

Sharmin Massage at Chamaral Hairdressers in Regent Parade, Sutton. 

Fine Tune Therapy and Pilates in King Harolds Way, Bexleyheath. Finetunetherapyandpilates.co.uk

Herbal Inn at Bluewater, Greenhithe. Bluewater.co.uk

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