Saturday, February 13, 2021

Cupping Gone Bad

Picture from Newsflash/ Australscope

Cupping became very popular after Michael Phelps was pictured with cupping marks on his back while competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

However, there was a major outcry after a three month old baby with 'too much gas' in Turkey was pictured being treated by cupping. At least cupping seems better compared to a two week old baby being treated by a chiropractor in Melbourne.

In my humble opinion, treatments like that should not be allowed when a child is that young.

Research (a meta-analysis of 135 controlled trials) show that there seems to be no negative effects on adults if cupping was done in moderation (Cao et al, 2012) In addition, adults are able give consent and feedback.

Picture from CEN/ Australscope

Treatment can go wrong with adults too. The 63 year old man pictured above wanted to treat his 'frozen shoulder' and went for cupping treatment 10 days in a row. The person treating him placed the cups in exactly the same positions daily. He was due to continue with the same treatment for two more days but experienced severe pain and a high fever. Fortunately, he went to the hospital instead. 

The following article explains how cupping for treatment works and attempts to offer possible  explanations of its effects (Al-Bedah et al, 2019), of which includes the Pain Gate Theory, TENs, blood detoxification and Reflex zone theory etc. However, no single theory exists to explain the whole effect of cupping.

Well, what we can learn from the above incidences is to ensure that cupping isn't done to the same spot on consecutive days.


Al-Bedah AMN, Elsubai IS, Qureshi NA et al (2019). The Medical Perspective Of Cupping Therapy: Effects And Mechanisms Of Action. J Tradit Complement Med. 9(2): 90-97. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcme.2018.03.003

H Cao, X Li and J Liu (2012). An Updated Review Of The Efficacy Of Cupping Therapy. PLos One. 7(2): e31793. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031793.

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