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In the News: Cupping

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Cupping cups applied to the skin

© Thinnkstock

Cupping is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. This practice dates back over 2,000 years but has received recent attention in the media due to its use by world-class athletes for injury relief. The cups used in cupping are typically made of bamboo, glass, or earthenware. 

Proponents of cupping believe that the effect of suction on the skin helps increase blood flow and promotes healing; however, the way in which cupping may have an effect on the body is unclear. There is some evidence suggesting that any therapeutic benefit from cupping may be the result of a placebo effect, but a 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis in the journal PLoS One concluded that cupping could be effective in treating the pain and disability associated with chronic neck pain and chronic low-back pain in the short term.

Cupping is considered generally safe for healthy people when performed by a trained health professional; however, bruising, soreness, burns, discomfort, and skin infections are possible. Cupping should not be performed on people with underlying health conditions, as more serious side effects can occur. People considering cupping should not delay conventional treatment for their condition or use cupping in place of conventional treatment.

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This page last modified August 19, 2016