AUBURN, AL (WSFA) - He just won his 21st Olympic Gold Medal, but social media can't stop buzzing about the giant dots on Michael Phelps' back and shoulders.
It's not just Phelps, the giant welts have shown up on dozens of athletes from track and field to gymnastics; so what are they and why are they there?
"It's a very strange feeling but a good feeling," said Acupuncturist Dr. Paula Lord of Acupuncture for Southern Living in Auburn.
He's no Olympian but James Taunton recovers like one.
"It's better than any massage you could get," said Taunton, one of Dr. Lord's patients.
Taunton admits he was nervous to start the ancient Chinese modality but after several sessions, he's hooked.
"Believe it or not, you hardly feel the needles or the cupping at all. It's like someone is taking the heel of their hand and just rubbing it across your back," said Taunton.
Leaving its mark on his injured shoulder and Rio.
"It talks directly to your organ system on the back, it enhances circulation, helps with range of motion, takes stagnant energy just below the skin and lifts it up so now there's blood flowing," said Dr. Lord.
Lord explains why Olympic athletes, like Michael Phelps, utilize Cupping.
"For him, it's helping him increase his muscle availability and range of motion so he can get extra action out of those muscles," said Lord.
Lord has treated several Olympic swimmers in Auburn and says her treatments help them in and out of the pool.
"Mobility of the muscles; the fact that they're using them all the time in all different kinds of water, cold, warm and over and over again, overuse really and so it keeps them strong and the blood flowing," said Lord.
But you don't need to be a world-class athlete to reap the benefits of Cupping.
"People on the lines building cars; I've treated a lot of that where they're doing the same thing over and over and so those muscles are overworked and the others are underworked, so we want to balance that out," said Lord.
If you're skeptical, the proof is in the medals.
"You know these guys are in their 30's now and they're competing with younger people who probably are stronger but they can pull it off because they're enhancing the body to the best of their ability at that point. So you can say whatever you want but that's kind of proof," said Lord.
According to Lord, the red welts we see on Olympic athletes represents stagnation or disease that has been moved from the deeper tissue layers to the surface.
"Big red welts, those are stuck to bring out tremendous stagnation to multiple layers in the tissue and so they look weird but really they're releasing and relaxing," said Lord.
There are three different types of cupping.
Lord utilizes glass cups and heat, known as Thermo-Cupping or Thermo-Therapy.
Another version uses plastic cups and magnets known as Bio-Magnetic Cupping.
Lord says only licensed acupuncturists are allowed to use the heated method, as dictated by the Alabama Massage Board.