Cupping therapy- Is It Good For Chronic Pain?

What is cupping therapy?

Cupping is a form of pain relief therapy that involves the placing of cups on one’s skin to improve the flow of energy into the body. It is an age-old practice that had its roots in Egypt. It is part of the healing process that is followed by numerous traditions all over the world including traditional Korean, Chinese, Unani, and Tibetan. The Greek physician Hippocrates compiled the medical description of cupping therapy that is still being used as a handbook for the practice to date.

The practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine follow this therapy. According to them, the suction helps facilitate the flow of ‘qi’(life force) in the body. It balances the yin and the yang with the body thereby enhancing the human body’s resistance to pathogens, increasing blood flow within the body, and aiding in effective pain reduction.

The cups are placed in such a way that it improves blood flow. It also helps to reduce muscle tension which further increases the flow of blood with any obstruction and helps in promoting cell repair. New connective tissue, as well as healthy blood cells, are formed too.

What are the various types of cupping?

When this therapy was first introduced during the early times, it was done with animal horns. These were then later replaced by bamboo and then ceramic. The suction was created using heat, ie. They heated the cups with fire which were applied to the skin. On cooling, the skin was sucked inside.

Cupping therapy is done by four methods,

● Dry cupping, which makes use of only the suction method
● wet/ bleeding cupping, which makes use of both cupping and controlled bleeding techniques
● Running cupping, moving the suction cups all over the body. Oil is applied to the desired area
● Flash cupping involves quick and repeated suction and release of cups on one particular area of the body.

Is cupping an effective method for pain relief?

Research that supports the claim:

In order to support the claim that cupping therapy was effective in treating chronic back pain in adults, there was a study undertaken. The protocol in place was to apply the intervention and to investigate the effectiveness of the therapy as to how the intensity of the pain reduces.
The review was conducted systematically and the meta-analysis was carried out by two independent researchers in the national and international databases. The reviews were explored and the quality of evidence was assessed according to the Jaded scale.

611 studies were identified out of which, 16 were a part of the qualitative analysis while 10 were in the quantitative analysis. The cupping therapy showed positive results and relieved them of their chronic back pain conditions. Though there is no standard treatment procedure that was being followed the outcomes of the study were identified to be significant relief in pain conditions, improved quality of life, and nociceptive threshold. Cupping therapy reduced the pain intensity which can be scored with a p=0.001
On the whole, the outcome of the research is that cupping therapy can effectively be used in the treatment of relieving back pain although the need to standardize the procedure remains.

Celebrities who have used cupping therapy:

When Michael Phelps showed up to an event with bruises all over his body people were worried that something happened to him, however, the athlete assured them that they were the results of a therapy that helped him to alleviate pain. Like Michael Phelps various other celebrities also made use of this therapy, some of them were Freida Pinto, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian West, Victoria Beckham, and Lena Dunham.

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