We are still learning how cupping can provide relief. As with many healing modalities that go beyond the limits of Western medicine, there is limited evidence on the mechanisms and effectiveness of cupping, but that’s not necessarily because it doesn’t work. There is some evidence that cupping can help reduce pain, NCCIH said, although research is mixed.
A 2020 meta-analysis of 18 studies and 1,172 participants published in the Pain Diary in 2020, cupping had « significant short-term effects » in reducing the intensity of pain compared to no treatment. (But the researchers also found that dummy cupping mimics an appropriate cupping session just as well, suggesting that a placebo effect may be at play.) The researchers concluded that cupping may be a treatment option for chronic pain. , but recommended further study as the evidence is limited by issues such as the risk of bias and irregularities in clinical trials. A 2015 meta-review published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences had similar results – that cupping « may be of benefit » for pain-related conditions like lower back pain, but the low quality of the studies prevented clear conclusions from being drawn. and stressed the need for larger and well-designed controlled trials.
There are a number of different theories on how cupping might relieve pain, only a few of which we’ll cover here. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) maintains that cupping works by dissolving stagnations and blockages in qi (or chi), the life energy or life force that circulates throughout the body along channels called meridians, the Pacific College of Health and Sciences Explain. The blocked qi is believed to be the root cause of a lot of pain and illness in TCM, and practices like acupuncture or cupping are believed to help restore the natural flow of qi, which promotes healing and correction. systemic imbalances.
This fits a similar theory from Western medical researchers: that cupping stimulates the body’s circulatory system. The suction force and superficial bruising is believed to cause the body to send blood to the affected area and facilitate a natural healing process, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The authors of the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences The review also claims that in addition to stimulating the flow of blood and qi, cupping can also stimulate the central nervous system to release neurotransmitters that mediate pain. In addition, the well-documented placebo effect – that is, people feel better because they think they are receiving a drug or treatment that is working – may play a role.
There is even less information about cupping and pregnancy. Although no major medical or pregnancy organization recommends the cupping for pregnancy issues, pregnant people may seek the cupping for reasons similar to anyone else’s, such as pain or improvement in their body. the circulation. But there just isn’t much professional advice for cupping on pregnant women. And, as with so many treatments, the number of pregnant women represented in the research is very low.
Due to the lack of research and caution in avoiding unnecessary risks during pregnancy, most sources (in TCM and Western medicine) advise against cupping during pregnancy (if they respond to it), especially on the abdomen. For example, the Cleveland Clinic advises against cupping for pregnant women due to lack of research, as does the National University of Health Sciences (who specializes in integrated medicine). Manuals Cupping therapy and Cupping therapy in traditional Chinese medicine ask practitioners to avoid cupping on the abdomen throughout pregnancy. And the NCCIH recommends that if you are pregnant and want to try TCM treatment, you should see your health care provider first.
The suction cup is generally low risk, depending on the Cleveland Clinic, but like any treatment, it has potential side effects. These include skin problems like persistent discoloration, scarring, burns and worsening of skin conditions like eczema, according to the NCCIH. Wet cupping is inherently riskier because it involves bleeding. Cupping equipment that is not sterilized between uses could spread infections, and repeated treatments could cause excessive blood loss, according to the doctor. NCCIH.
If you want to try cupping, it’s a good idea to do your research, talk to your doctor first (especially if you’re pregnant), and find a reliable supplier. When looking for a TCM practitioner, the NCCIH recommends finding a licensed and accredited person, and asking them questions about their education and experience.