Cupping is an intervention dating back at least 1000 years, but has experienced a resurgence in popularity due in part to the visible red circles found on many high level athletes’ bodies. Although touted to benefit multiple body systems cupping lacks scientific data from methodologically sound research studies, including randomized controlled trials. Within the musculoskeletal system, cupping is often utilized to treat spinal pain including low back pain. A recent randomized controlled trial examined the impact of cupping on patients with low back pain.
Silva and colleagues published their findings in the Journal of Physiotherapy (2021). Authors randomized 90 patients with chronic low back pain to one of two treatment groups. One group received traditional dry cupping applied bilaterally on the spine between the first and fifth lumbar vertebral levels. The second received a sham or placebo cupping treatment. Each group was treated once a week for 8 weeks. Each participant was assessed at baseline, 4 weeks, and 8 weeks for subjective and objective changes in their symptoms and functional status. Authors reported no difference in patient’s pain, medication use, perceived overall effect, quality of life, mobility, or functional status. Patients with chronic low back pain are encouraged to utilize proven treatments including education, activity modification, manual therapy, and exercise for their symptoms.