Nov 17, 2016
New Treatment Gaining Traction

Corey James, an Assistant Athletic Trainer at Duke University, is offering a new treatment for the swimming and diving team. James uses myofascial decompression (MFD) to help stimulate blood flow so athletes can better recover from workouts.

MFD works by lifting skin, muscle, and tissue with suction cups and a pump. By lifting the fascia up and stimulating blood flow, it helps flush waste products from the tissue—which is helpful in treating overused muscles. Although MFD is similar to cupping, one key difference is the cups used in the latter therapy are heated to create suction. An article from The Chronicle explains other ways the two diverge.

“I used to call [MFD] cupping, but once you actually learn the differences between MFD and cupping, you realize that they actually are two different principles,” James told The Chronicle. “Cupping has been around for 5,000 years, and the Chinese used it to neutralize the inner chi, or energy lines. MFD looks more at fascia, a tissue that lays over the top of muscle.”

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James first heard of MFD when he was a graduate student at San Jose State University. Four years later, he took a course to become certified in the treatment.

With its popularity increasing over the past few years—and with the notoriety Michael Phelps brought to cupping at the 2016 Olympic Games—Duke swimmers have been eager to try MFD. Although the athletes often know what to expect, James makes sure other stakeholders are informed about the treatment.

“You’re going to have these big, hickey bruises, so you have to let the physicians know,” James said. “You have to let the teachers know too, so they don’t think I’m doing anything crazy.”

James has also shared information about MFD with other athletic trainers at Duke, and the baseball team has started using it as a supplemental treatment. It’s not restricted to certain sports, but James believes swimmers may see the most benefit from MFD.

“Swimmers tend to notice the difference more because they’re unweighted,” said James. “They’re in the water and essentially floating, so they can really feel it. They need great ranges of motion in their arms and hips.”

A key example comes from a student-athlete who was unable to take a deep breath without pain due to a back injury. Within a few days of receiving MFD, he was back in the water.

“After the treatment, he was able to take deep breaths, move, and it really helped him kick the corner,” James said. “I was pretty amazed at how fast it worked. The treatment was on a Wednesday, and he was able to swim at 85 to 95 percent at a meet on Saturday.”

This isn’t the only success story for MFD among Duke’s swimmers. Armed with enough knowledge to explain the telltale bruises to anyone who asks, junior Nick Bigot is confident in trying the treatment.

“I have a nagging soreness in my knee right now, and I’m using it to take pressure off my quads and hamstrings,” Bigot said. “It definitely seems to help loosen my body up, and I’ll do it maybe once a week. It certainly seems to be helping me in terms of practices.” 

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