DETROIT (WWJ) – You may have noticed Michael Phelps and other Olympic athletes sporting some round red marks on their bodies during this year’s games — and wondered about their origin.

It’s a telltale sign of cupping, an ancient Chinese therapy to help relieve muscle and tissue pain.

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Health reporter Dr. Deanna Lites decided to try the treatment for pain relief:

“I have some pain over my right back and shoulder so I headed to Beaumont Health’s Integrative Medicine department in Royal Oak for a cupping session,” said Lites.

It’s a process where a plastic, glass or silicone cup is placed on selected parts of the body.

“I’ll admit the idea of having my skin sucked into a cup sounded painful,” Lites said, ” but to my surprise, the cupping didn’t hurt.”

There was just a gentle pull.

While there’s limited research on the effectiveness of cupping,  Lites noticed that after her treatment –her shoulder and back didn’t seem as tight.

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How long does a treatment take and how many treatments do you need?

That depends on the condition or injury says Dr. Mike Tocco with Beaumont’s Integrative Medicine.

Integrative Medicine is open to the public – and they incorporate cupping in their acupuncture and massage treatments.

Those treatments are an hour and the cupping portion is about 15 minutes of that.

The cost is $60 for an hour.

“The cup is creating a vacuum or a negative pressure that pulls up fascia, or muscle into the cup and that’s causing lymph and blood flow to that area – to increase oxygen which will decrease inflammation and ultimately should decrease pain,” says Tocco.

Can cupping help any other problems besides musculoskeletal pain?

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Tocco says it can help abdominal pain like menstrual cramps, bronchitis, pneumonia and other respiratory problems.