Cupping Therapy: Ancient Chinese Remedy not just for Olympic Stars

Cupping therapy is the new fad and has gained a lot of attention since viewers of the Rio Olympic games saw big red bruises all over world known gold medalist Michael Phelps body. Athletes, Celebrities, and even everyday people use this method as a form of recovering and relieving sore muscles by stimulating blood flow and decreasing muscle tension.

What Do You Know About Cupping Therapy?

Cupping Therapy has More Uses Than Just Sore Muscle Relief

Alongside a detox to refresh arteries and veins, “cupping therapy is indicated for blood disorders, pain relief, inflammatory conditions, mental and physical relaxation, varicose veins and deep tissue massage and quotes up to 50% improvement in fertility levels” as stated by Hennawy. Interestedly enough, cupping therapy has been used to treat many other diseases and conditions such as “pain, herpes zoster, cough or asthma, acne, common cold, urticaria, lateral femoral cutaneous neuritis, cervical spondylosis, lumbar sprain, scapulohumeral periarthritis, mastitis, facial paralysis, Bi syndrome (Wind, cold and dampness invading the body, which is caused by changeable climate and alternate cold and heat, or dwelling in damp places, or wading, or being caught in the rain, and linger in channels and joints resulting in Bi syndrome as the result of stagnation of qi and blood, headache, soft tissue injury, arthritis, neurodermatitis, wound and sious, sciatica, and myofascitis.” 

There are a few types of cupping therapy including wet and dry. For both, typically glass cups are placed on a person’s body where the cups on the skin create suction contrast between the heat of the fire briefly paced in the glass  cup and cool of the surrounding air. After a few minutes, therapists during wet cupping therapy make small cuts in the skin in order to eliminate toxic blood and fluids. 

Multiple Studies Showing Effectiveness of Cupping Therapy

An abstract posted on the National Center for Biotechnology Information discussed the effectiveness of wet cupping therapy for treating 70 patients that suffered from migraines or severe tension. The study questioned the patients “headache severity, days of headache per month, and use of medication" at the beginning of the study and 3 months following. The study found that “compared to the baseline, mean headache severity decreased by 66% following wet-cupping treatment. Treated patients also experienced the equivalent of 12.6 fewer days of headache per month”

One study was done using wet cupping that evaluated patients with anterior knee pain, their range of movement, and the persons well being. The patients answered multiple questionaries’ about pain levels and well-being. Active and passive range of motion was assessed before the study and afterwards. In this study, plastic suction cups were used compared to the traditional glass cups.

 The table "shows that there is a statistically significance difference in Passive Range of Motion, Active Ranger of Motion, Pain Visual Analogue Scale and Well Being Visual Analogue Scale before and after Cupping Therapy; p ≤ 0.05 in all outcome measures." The results show the level of pain from pre-intervention, a mean score of 5.14, compared to post intervention, a mean score of 1.26, and are seen as significantly lower which is described in the table. "Also it is apparent that the maximum level of pain perceived by an individual reduced by 50% (from 10/10 to 5/10) at the end of the study” A person’s active range of motion also increased during the three-week period with a mean of 134.14 degrees pre-cupping compared to an increased mean of 147.24 degrees post cupping. Overall, cupping therapy helped the patients in multiple ways that were proven statistically.

Another study was done comparing the effectiveness of 10 different traditional Chinese medicines on patients that had chronic neck and lower back pain. For neck pain, the researchers studied cupping versus waitlist pain, standard medical care, heating pad application, and progressive muscle relaxation. The studies for lower back pain compared cupping to waitlist, usual care, and medications.  study included much statistical data that was hard to comprehend and put into simpler terms, but the results and conclusions showed that cupping therapy in patients with chronic non-specific neck pain “could be efficacious in pain and disability…in the immediate term."

Cupping therapy is used to treat many symptoms and diseases but even though this method has been around for many years, there is still a debate if it is an effective treatment. Other than the studies discussed above, there have not been many more studies or research that test the accuracy and effectiveness on wet and dry cupping therapy.

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