Cupping is safe and effective for many conditions. More and more studies are being conducted on the efficacy of cupping, and the results are very positive. Though there are challenges with doing studies on manual therapies, it should not diminish the reality of the results that those who are receiving cupping are reporting.
As cupping therapy is brought into mainstream manual therapy techniques, more studies on cupping will be performed. Only then can we truly confirm what science is behind the modality.
So far, we have seen positive results from the studies that have been performed. There are challenges in studying this kind of technique, as it is hard to create a control group (placebo) the imitates suction. However, brain wave activity is being measured in some studies, as well as a measurement of blood hormone and chemical levels. So far, all studies have been very positive. More work indeed needs to happen.
In research discussing the mechanism of cupping creating negative pressure under the skin, the following factors were tested. The influence of negative pressure on cupping marks, the influence of cupping on regional blood vessels and blood flow, on capillary structure, and surface tissue, endothelial cells, and the biological effects of negative pressure drainage. It was found that cupping can dilate local blood vessels to improve microcirculation, promote capillary endothelial cell repair, accelerate granulation and angiogenesis in regional tissues, normalizing the patients functional state. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23383463
In a systematic literature review of cupping therapy over 550 clinical studies, including 73 controlled randomized trials, 22 clinical controlled trials, 373 case studies, and 82 case reports we find that the quality and quantity of the RCTs have improved over the past 50 years, and that the majority of studies show potential benefit on pain conditions, herpes zoster, and other diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21078197
A single-blind experiment designed constituted 60 subjects with self-perceived neck and shoulder pain. Skin surface temperature demonstrated statistically significant differences from the control group. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27073404
In a study of neck pain levels of lactate, glucose, pyruvate, and glycerine were measured, and lactose increases indicated increased vasodilation. This is a positive result as patients with cervical neck pain were indicating a decrease in blood flow to the neck.
In a study done in Berlin in 2012, a study was performed for osteoarthritis of the knee. In the study 2 sessions per week for four weeks were performed (8 sessions total). Both groups were permitted to take paracetomol on demand. A decrease in pain and stiffness was seen in the test group. It was indicated that more study is needed.
A study was performed on the efficacy of cupping on facial paralysis. Positive results were seen, and again further research was recommended.
A study was performed on the efficacy of cupping on sciatica. The results were positive, and cupping is considered a good option instead of surgery. Cupping ‘mainly involves improving microcirculation, promoting capillary endothelial cell repair, accelerating granulation, and angiogenesis in the regional tissues. This helps in normalizing the patient’s functional state and progressive muscle relaxation.’
Indian Journal of Ancient Medicine and Yoga Volume 9 Number 3, July – September 2016 DOI:
Cupping is an ancient technique used in treating pain and various disorders. Different techniques have been developed over time, however, applying a cup to create suction over a painful area, is common to all. Dry or fire cupping, used on the intact skin, leaves bluish circular hematomas. Recently, interest in cupping has re-emerged and subsequently, several studies have begun to investigate the mechanisms of cupping therapy. Mechanically, cupping increases blood circulation, whereas physiologically it activates the immune system and stimulates the mechanosensitive fibers, thus leading to a reduction in pain.
There is initial scientific evidence that dry cupping is able to reduce musculoskeletal pain. Since cupping is an inexpensive, noninvasive and low-risk (if performed by a trained practitioner) therapeutic modality, we believe that it should be included in the arsenal of musculoskeletal medicine. It is essential to perform additional studies clarifying the biological mechanism and clinical effects of cupping.