Name: Cupping

Description: Traditional Chinese Medicine

Creator: Doctor_B

This casebook is published and has been read 1691 times.


BOTTOM LINE: No serious adverse effects but no proven efficacy for any condition


PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31793. Epub 2012 Feb 28.

An updated review of the efficacy of cupping therapy.


Centre for Complementary Medicine Research, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, Australia.



Since 1950, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) cupping therapy has been applied as a formal modality in hospitals throughout China and elsewhere in the world. Based on a previous systematic literature review of clinical studies on cupping therapy, this study presents a thorough review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to evaluate the therapeutic effect of cupping therapy.


Six databases were searched for articles published through 2010. RCTs on cupping therapy for various diseases were included. Studies on cupping therapy combined with other TCM treatments versus non-TCM therapies were excluded.


135 RCTs published from 1992 through 2010 were identified. The studies were generally of low methodological quality. Diseases for which cupping therapy was commonly applied were herpes zoster, facial paralysis (Bell palsy), cough and dyspnea, acne, lumbar disc herniation, and cervical spondylosis. Wet cupping was used in most trials, followed by retained cupping, moving cupping, and flash cupping. Meta-analysis showed cupping therapy combined with other TCM treatments was significantly superior to other treatments alone in increasing the number of cured patients with herpes zoster, facial paralysis, acne, and cervical spondylosis. No serious adverse effects were reported in the trials.


Numerous RCTs on cupping therapy have been conducted and published during the past decades. This review showed that cupping has potential effect in the treatment of herpes zoster and other specific conditions. However, further rigorously designed trials on its use for other conditions are warranted.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] 


Free PMC Article


BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Nov 16;10(1):70.

Clinical research evidence of cupping therapy in China: a systematic literature review.

Cao HHan MLi XDong SShang YWang QXu SLiu J.

Center for Evidence-Based Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, 100029, China.


BACKGROUND: Though cupping therapy has been used in China for thousands of years, there has been no systematic summary of clinical research on it.This review is to evaluate the therapeutic effect of cupping therapy using evidence-based approach based on all available clinical studies.

METHODS: We included all clinical studies on cupping therapy for all kinds of diseases. We searched six electronic databases, all searches ended in December 2008. We extracted data on the type of cupping and type of diseases treated.

RESULTS: 550 clinical studies were identified published between 1959 and 2008, including 73 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 22 clinical controlled trials, 373 case series, and 82 case reports. Number of RCTs obviously increased during past decades, but the quality of the RCTs was generally poor according to the risk of bias of the Cochrane standard for important outcome within each trials. The diseases in which cupping was commonly employed included pain conditions, herpes zoster, cough or asthma, etc. Wet cupping was used in majority studies, followed by retained cupping, moving cupping, medicinal cupping, etc. 38 studies used combination of two types of cupping therapies. No serious adverse effects were reported in the studies.

CONCLUSIONS: According to the above results, quality and quantity of RCTs on cupping therapy appears to be improved during the past 50 years in China, and majority of studies show potential benefit on pain conditions, herpes zoster and other diseases. However, further rigorous designed trials in relevant conditions are warranted to support their use in practice.

PMID: 21078197 [PubMed - in process]PMCID: PMC3000376Free PMC Article


J Neurol Sci. 2010 Jul 15;294(1-2):70-3.

Cupping for stroke rehabilitation: a systematic review.

Lee MSChoi TYShin BCHan CHErnst E.

Division of Standard Research, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, Daejeon, Republic of Korea.


Cupping is often used for stroke rehabilitation in Asian countries. Currently, no systematic review of this topic is available. The aim of this systematic review is to summarize and critically evaluate the evidence for and against the effectiveness of cupping for stroke rehabilitation. Thirteen databases were searched from their inception through March of 2010 without language restrictions. Prospective clinical trials were included if cupping was tested as the sole treatment or as an adjunct to other conventional treatments for stroke rehabilitation. We found 43 potentially relevant articles, of which 5 studies including 3 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and 2 uncontrolled observational studies (UOSs) met our inclusion criteria. Cupping was compared with acupuncture, electro-acupuncture and warm needling. Some superior effects of cupping were found in two of the RCTs when compared to acupuncture in hemiplegic shoulder pain and high upper-limb myodynamia after stroke. The other RCT failed to show favorable effects of cupping when compared to acupuncture and warm needling in patients with hemiplegic hand edema. The two UOSs reported favorable effects of cupping on aphasia and intractable hiccup after stroke. There are not enough trials to provide evidence for the effectiveness of cupping for stroke rehabilitation because most of the included trials compared the effects with unproven evidence and were not informative. Future RCTs seem warranted but must overcome the methodological shortcomings of the existing evidence.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

PMID: 20435319 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 May 7. [Epub ahead of print]

Cupping for Treating Pain: A Systematic Review.

Kim JILee MSLee DHBoddy KErnst E.

Division of Standard Research, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, Daejeon, 305-811, South Korea.;


The objective of this study was to assess the evidence for or against the effectiveness of cupping as a treatment option for pain. Fourteen databases were searched. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) testing cupping in patients with pain of any origin were considered. Trials using cupping with or without drawing blood were included, while trials comparing cupping with other treatments of unproven efficacy were excluded. Trials with cupping as concomitant treatment together with other treatments of unproven efficacy were excluded. Trials were also excluded if pain was not a central symptom of the condition. The selection of studies, data extraction and validation were performed independently by three reviewers. Seven RCTs met all the inclusion criteria. Two RCTs suggested significant pain reduction for cupping in low back pain compared with usual care (P < 0.01) and analgesia (P < 0.001). Another two RCTs also showed positive effects of cupping in cancer pain (P < 0.05) and trigeminal neuralgia (P < 0.01) compared with anticancer drugs and analgesics, respectively. Two RCTs reported favorable effects of cupping on pain in brachialgia compared with usual care (P = 0.03) or heat pad (P < 0.001). The other RCT failed to show superior effects of cupping on pain in herpes zoster compared with anti-viral medication (P = 0.065). Currently there are few RCTs testing the effectiveness of cupping in the management of pain. Most of the existing trials are of poor quality. Therefore, more rigorous studies are required before the effectiveness of cupping for the treatment of pain can be determined.

PMID: 19423657 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]Free Article


 Clin Exp Hypertens. 2010;32(7):423-5. Epub 2010 Sep 9.

Cupping for hypertension: a systematic review.

Lee MSChoi TYShin BCKim JINam SS.

Division of Standard Research, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, Daejeon, South Korea.


The objective of this review is to assess the clinical evidence for or against cupping as a treatment for hypertension. We searched the literature using 15 databases from their inception to 30 June 2009, without language restrictions. We included all clinical trials (CTs) of cupping to treat hypertension in human patients. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane criteria. Two CTs met all inclusion criteria. One RCT (randomized CT) assessed the effectiveness of dry cupping on changes in cerebral vascular function compared with drug therapy. Their results suggested significant effect in favor of cupping on vascular compliance and degree of vascular filling. One uncontrolled observational study (UOS) tested wet cupping for acute hypertension and found that a one-time treatment reduced blood pressure. In conclusion, the evidence is not significantly convincing to suggest cupping is effective for treating hypertension. Further research is required to investigate whether it generates any specific effects for that condition.

PMID: 20828224 [PubMed - in process]






Bookmarks The following information, which has been distilled by the casebook author from this and other websites is particularly relevant to this casebook.
Bookmarks - Web
Web Page Notes Concepts
 BioMed Central | Full text | Clinical Research Evidence of Cupping Therapy in China: A Systematic Literature Review
 Cupping for Treating Pain: A Systematic Review -- Kim et al., 10.1093/ecam/nep035 -- Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
 Traditional Chinese Medicine: An Introduction [NCCAM Backgrounder] U.S. National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine
 Traditional Chinese Medicine: An Introduction [NCCAM Backgrounder] Backgrounder on cupping from NCCAM in layman's terms

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