Therapeutic Cupping or Dry Cupping

Therapeutic cupping/Dry cupping is an ancient therapeutic modality with its origins in China.  It involves application of silicone cups to strategic points corresponding to trigger points of muscles or acupuncture meridians.  The application of the cup creates suction and a myriad of physiological effects.  A recent study (2018) summarized the results of 64 clinical trials exploring the specific mechanisms of therapeutic cupping and identified the following:

  • Pain reduction.  The proposed mechanism, not dissimilar to acupuncture, is that cupping increased the body’s natural opioid production
  • Muscle relaxation.  Cupping creates increased blood flow through capillaries and microcirculation. Increased blood flow likely aides in the clearing of toxins in muscle that are irritating the nerve-muscle connection and producing spasm.
  • Muscle cell repair. Increased blood flow to the muscle cells delivers a slew of the cells involved in repairing damaged tissue.
  • Boosts the immune system. The application of cups and the creation of negative pressure increases flow through the lymphatic system.  The lymphatic system houses cells involved in our immune system so boosting flow through this system also boosts the potential for action through this system.

What conditions are appropriate for Cupping?

Muscle, tendon, joint pathology – here are some examples:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Knee Osteoarthritis
  • Sports injuries
  • Lumbar spine/Low back pain
  • Pelvic girdle pain and low back pain from Pregnancy
  • Running Injuries

Zhang YJ, Cao HJ, Li XL, Yang XY, Lai BY, Yang GY, Liu JP. Cupping therapy versus acupuncture for pain-related conditions: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and trial sequential analysis. Chin Med. 2017 Jul 24;12:21.. 

Al-Bedah AMN, Elsubai IS, Qureshi NA, Aboushanab TS, Ali GIM, El-Olemy AT, Khalil AAH, Khalil MKM, Alqaed MS. The medical perspective of cupping therapy: Effects and mechanisms of action. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018 Apr 30;9(2):90-97.