What are those red circles on Michael Phelps' back?

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Phelps, Ledecky Dominate in the Pool

Sunday night was a big one for Michael Phelps: He won his 19th Gold Medal at the Rio Olympics, helping Team USA coast to victory in the 4x100 meter race.

SEE MORE: Everything you need to know about the Summer Olympics

While viewers were astonished by Phelps' almost super human performance, others were also wondering what the hell those circular bruises on his back were.

The big, red circles are actually the result of cupping, which is an ancient therapy used to promote blood flow and healing. According to WebMd, cupping began in ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures and was used to treat a wide range of ailments. Cupping involves placing a heated cup upside down on the skin, creating a vacuum, which in turn causes the blood vessels in the skin to expand.

RELATED: Michael Phelps' Olympic career

12 PHOTOS
Michael Phelps Olympic history
See Gallery
Michael Phelps Olympic history
Team USA swimmer Michael Phelps prepares to swim laps during a practice session at Northside Swim Center in San Antonio, Texas, July 16, 2016. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
Michael Phelps (C) of the U.S. swims the butterfly stroke during his team's victory in the men's 4x100 meters medley relay at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympics August 17, 2008. Picture taken with underwater camera. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File photo
Michael Phelps of the U.S. poses with his gold medal after winning the men's 4x100m medley relay final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File photo
Michael Phelps and Garrett Weber-Gale (L) of the U.S. celebrate after winning the men's 4x100m freestyle relay swimming final at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 11, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray (CHINA)
Gold medallist Michael Phelps of the U.S. listens to his national anthem during the men's 200m individual medley victory ceremony during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre August 2, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray 
Members of the men's 4 x 200m freestyle relay team, Michael Phelps, Conor Dwyer, Ryan Lochte and Ricky Berens (L-R) hold their national flag as they celebrate their gold medal win in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay victory ceremony during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre July 31, 2012. Phelps won the record 19th Olympic medal on Tuesday when he joined forces with his U.S. team mates to win the 4x200m freestyle relay. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
Michael Phelps of the U.S. competes in the men's 400m individual medley swimming final at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 10, 2008. Picture taken with underwater camera. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay (CHINA)
Michael Phelps of the U.S. holds up his award recognising him as the most decorated Olympian, during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre August 4, 2012. Phelps ended his incredible Olympic career on the perfect note on Saturday, winning his 18th gold medal for the United States in the men's medley relay, the last time he will swim a competitive race. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
A combination photo shows Michael Phelps of the U.S. holding each of his eight gold medals in the swimming competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Phelps won his eighth gold medal on Sunday, beating Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals won at a single Games in 1972. The medals were won in: (Top row L-R) 400m individual medley (August 10), 4x100m freestyle relay (August 11), 200m freestyle (August 12), 200m butterfly (August 13). (Bottom row L-R) 4x200m freestyle relay (August 13), 200m individual medley (August 15), 100m butterfly (August 16), and 4x100m medley relay (August 17). REUTERS/Staff (CHINA)
Michael Phelps of the U.S. looks down at the pool after his team was beaten to the gold by France in the men's 4x100m freestyle relay final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre July 29, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray 
Photographers surround Michael Phelps of the U.S. after he won his eighth gold medal of the games at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 17, 2008. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (CHINA)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

According to the Associated Press, Phelps, 31, has been practicing cupping for while, but some doctors are wary of its supposed benefits. "I would label cupping in the category of a placebo effect," one doctor told Fox News in 2012. "It's a waste of time, it's a waste of money," he concludes.

While the benefits of cupping are up for debate, what's not is Phelps' amazing skills in the water.

Read Full Story

People are Reading