NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — You probably noticed the marks on Michael Phelps at this year’s summer Olympics. They’re from cupping — an ancient technique that uses suction to relieve muscle pain. Carla Pinto says for her, it keeps stress and illness at bay.

“The different ailments I’ve tried cupping for been muscle tension or stress in my back and my shoulder area [and] if I’ve had like a cough in my lungs or bronchitis,” Pinto explained.

For more than a decade, Pinto has been getting cupping done by Artemis Morris, N.D., a naturopathic physician.

“Cupping has been around since probably 1000 BC so it’s a traditional method that has been used for all this time that really stands the test of time,” Dr. Morris said.

There are various types of cupping methods, but in the technique Dr. Morris performs, fire is used fire to create a vacuum.

“When you place a cup on any muscular area, what it’s doing is increasing local circulation and you can see that because the cup will draw the skin into the shape into the cup, so that is like a deep tissue massage,” Dr. Morris explained.

Dr. Morris says the increased circulation kicks the body’s immune response into action.

“Along with the blood comes the white blood cells and the immune system gets activated,” she explained.

Studies have shown cupping may help with pain management, facial paralysis, shingles and even acne.

“Circulatory effects are great for skin disorders, are great for muscular pain, are great for the immune system,” Dr. Morris said.

So what does the suction feel like?

“You hardly feel anything truthfully and it almost does feel like a message,” Pinto described.

And Carla says the payoff is well worth it.

“After your cupping session, you do feel like there is some kind of release and there’s more movement in your lungs but I would say in the next day you really start to feel better,” Pinto said.

As for those marks cupping leaves behind? Pinto says they usually fade after a couple of days. Experts say if you’re planning on getting cupping done, be sure to have it performed by a trained health professional.