Dry cupping therapy for improving nonspecific neck pain and subcutaneous hemodynamics


Context: Dry cupping therapy is a noninvasive treatment commonly used to reduce pain and promote the healing process in various populations, including those with nonspecific neck pain; however, no data are available to support most of this method’s true physiological benefits. Objective: To determine if dry cupping therapy decreased pain and increased subcutaneous blood flow compared with sham cupping and control conditions. Design: Controlled laboratory study. Setting: Laboratory. Patients or Other Participants: A total of 32 participants (age ¼ 22.5 6 2.8 years, height ¼ 173.3 6 10.1 cm, mass ¼ 76.6 6 18.7 kg) with self-reported nonspecific neck pain. Intervention(s): We used dry cupping and sham cupping interventions and a control condition. For the dry cupping intervention, 1 stationary cup was placed directly over the most painful area for 8 minutes. The sham cupping intervention followed the same procedures as the dry cupping intervention except a sham cup was applied. For the control condition, participants received no treatment. Main Outcome Measure(s): Subjective pain intensity (visual analog scale); pain-pressure threshold; subcutaneous hemodynamics, including superficial and deep oxygenated, deoxygenated, and total hemoglobin levels; and tissue saturation index. Results: We observed differences in the visual analog scale score and the superficial and deep oxygenated and total hemoglobin levels (P values ≤ .002) immediately postintervention compared with baseline. Post hoc tests revealed that the dry cupping group had less pain than the sham cupping and control groups and higher superficial and deep oxygenated and total hemoglobin levels (P values ≤ .008). No differences were found between baseline and 24 hours postintervention. Conclusions: A single session of dry cupping therapy may be an effective short-term treatment method for immediately reducing pain and increasing oxygenated and total hemoglobin levels in patients with nonspecific neck pain.

Journal of Athletic Training