- Delivering Truth Around the World
Custom Search

Cupping therapy from ancient Traditional Persian Medicine found to improve quality of life / Wikipedia 'cupping therapy'

David Williams

Smaller Font Larger Font RSS 2.0


Most healthy individuals hardly ever have to worry about improving their current quality of life. After all, being healthy is reason enough to celebrate, and people typically are only healthy if their lives aren’t causing them a lot of stress. But if one tried, would it be possible to improve quality of life even further while in such a state?

Researchers from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences wanted to find out the answer to that question, so they conducted a study on participants who were located in Tehran, Iran, with a particular method in mind. The researchers set out to find whether cupping therapy, a practice that first originated in ancient China, can have any positive or negative effects in healthy individuals.

The details of the study, which was published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, showed that cupping therapy can indeed increase the quality of life in individuals. And what’s interesting is that there were no serious adverse effects or, in fact, any negative consequences whatsoever.

The researchers noted that their study’s main objective was simply to determine the influence of cupping therapy on the quality of life of healthy patients that had been referred to traditional Persian medicine clinics located in Tehran. First, the study’s participants were examined by Traditional Persian Medicine (TPM) specialists, and their temperaments were determined for later reference. Then the cupping therapy sessions started for each and every one of them.

The official method used by the researchers was carried out thusly: the area of the back between the shoulders of participants was cleaned, and the actual act of cupping was performed with a disposable cupping glass for a few minutes. The participants were also asked to fill out a questionnaire before cupping and a full month after cupping, in order to determine their understanding of their own health status. The researchers then took all of the data they had and analyzed them in order to arrive at their conclusions.

Based on the data that they gathered from the study’s participants, the researchers were able to conclude that nearly all of the participants felt that they had an increase in their quality of life after undergoing cupping therapy. To be more specific, from a pool of 178 participants with acceptable data from the project, scores of quality of life went up to 155, which represents 88 percent of all the patients.

Meanwhile, 21 participants felt that there were no changes to their quality of life, while only two noted a decrease in theirs. Quality of life, in this case, refers to a number of health conditions such as vitality, bodily pain, physical functioning, and mental health.

What’s even more interesting is that the study’s participants reported no major side effects. Perhaps the only noteworthy complications in the study were the pain and itching experienced by participants in the cupping area for about two to three days. This was to be expected and not counted as a major negative consequence. The lack of reports of hematoma caused by the cupping was also noted as a positive by the researchers. All in all, all of their data points towards the fact that cupping therapy can be extremely beneficial.

Of course, this has been a known fact for quite a long time now. Indeed, that’s why cupping therapy remains popular. It even had a resurgence recently due to the fact that athletes were using it to improve recovery and performance. Cupping therapy is also said to be effective as an alternative pain treatment, especially when combined with acupuncture. With this new study, it’s clear that it probably won’t fade away into obscurity any time soon.

Find out more methods derived from ancient Chinese medicine practices in

Sources include:


Cupping therapy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cupping therapy
Cupping set, London, England Wellcome L0057395.jpg
Cupping and bloodletting set, from London, England, dating from 1860–1875
Alternative therapy
Benefits Placebo

Cupping therapy is a form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin. Cupping has been characterized as pseudoscience.[1] There is no good evidence it has any benefit on health and there are some concerns it may be harmful.[2]

Through suction, the skin is drawn into the cup by creating a vacuum in the cup placed on the skin over the targeted area. The vacuum can be created either by the heating and subsequent cooling of the air in the cup, or via a mechanical pump.[3] The cup is usually left in place for somewhere between five and fifteen minutes. It is believed by some to help treat pain, deep scar tissues in the muscles and connective tissue, muscle knots, and swelling; however, the efficacy of this is unproven.[2]



Cupping is poorly supported by scientific evidence.[4] In their 2008 book Trick or Treatment, Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst write that no evidence exists of any beneficial effects of cupping for any medical condition.[5] A 2011 review found tentative evidence for pain but nothing else.[6]

Any reported benefits are likely due to the placebo effect.[7]

Advocates claim that cupping is an alternative treatment for cancer. However, the American Cancer Society notes that "available scientific evidence does not support claims that cupping has any health benefits" and also that the treatment carries a small risk of burns.[2]


Cupping is generally safe when applied by trained professionals on people who are otherwise healthy.[7] It is not recommended for people with health problems due to side effects.[7] Cupping is not recommended as a replacement for typical treatment.[7] Cupping may result in bruising, burns, pain, and/or skin infection.[7]

Research suggests that cupping is harmful, especially in people who are thin or obese: According to Jack Raso (1997), cupping results in capillary expansion, excessive fluid accumulation in tissues, and the rupture of blood vessels.[8]

Cupping therapy adverse events can be divided into local and systemic adverse events. The local adverse events were scar formation, burn, skin infection, panniculitis, abscess formation, pain at cupping site, and systemic adverse events include: anemia, dizziness, vasovagal attack, insomnia, headaches and nausea.[9]

Fire cupping can sometimes result in minor to severe burns, and may lead to hospitalization and may even require skin grafting to repair the injury. Also, other burns, due to carelessness with the flammable substances being used, such as spills and over application, can also occur.[10][11]


Preference varies among practitioners, societies, and cultures.

Cupping therapy types can be classified into four main categories, the first category is the "technical types" which included: dry, wet, massage and flash cupping therapy. The second category is "the power of suction related types" which included: light, medium and strong cupping therapy. The third category is "the method of suction related types" which included: fire, manual suction, and electrical suction cupping therapy. The fourth category is "materials inside cups related types" which included: herbal, water, ozone, Moxa, needle and magnetic cupping therapy.[12]

A fifth category and a sixth category were developed later. The fifth category is area treated related types that included: facial, abdominal, female, male and orthopedic cupping therapy. The sixth category is the other cupping types that included sports and aquatic cupping.[13]

Dry cupping

Bamboo cups

The cupping procedure commonly involves creating a small area of low air pressure next to the skin. However, there are varieties in the tools used, the methods of creating the low pressure, and the procedures followed during the treatment.[14]

The cups can be of various shapes including balls or bells, and may range in size from 1 to 3 inches (25 to 76 mm) across the opening. Plastic and glass are the most common materials used today, replacing the horn, pottery, bronze and bamboo cups used in earlier times. The low air pressure required may be created by heating the cup or the air inside it with an open flame or a bath in hot scented oils, then placing it against the skin. As the air inside the cup cools, it contracts and draws the skin slightly inside. More recently, vacuum is created with a mechanical suction pump acting through a valve located at the top of the cup. Rubber cups are also available that squeeze the air out and adapt to uneven or bony surfaces.

In practice, cups are normally used only on softer tissue that can form a good seal with the edge of the cup. They may be used singly or with many to cover a larger area. They may be used by themselves or placed over an acupuncture needle. Skin may be lubricated, allowing the cup to move across the skin slowly.

Skin markings are common after the cups are removed, varying from simple red rings that disappear relatively quickly, to discolourisation from bruising, especially if the cups are dragged while suctioned from one place to another, ostensibly to break down muscle fiber. Usually treatments are not very painful.

Fire cupping

A person receiving fire cupping

Fire cupping involves soaking a cotton ball in almost pure alcohol. The cotton is clamped by a pair of forceps and lit via match or lighter, and, in one motion, placed into the cup and quickly removed, while the cup is placed on the skin. Fire heats the inside of the cup and a small amount of suction is created by the air cooling down again and contracting. Massage oil may be applied to create a better seal as well as allow the cups to glide over muscle groups (e.g. trapezius, erectors, latisimus dorsi, etc.) in an act called "moving cupping". Dark circles may appear where the cups were placed because of rupture of the capillaries just under the skin. There are documented cases of burns caused by fire cupping.[15][16]

Wet cupping

A person receiving wet cupping

Wet cupping is also known as Hijama (Arabic: حجامة‎ lit. "sucking") or medicinal bleeding, where blood is drawn by cupping suction from a small skin incision.[17] The first documented uses are found in the teachings of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.[18] According to Muhammad al-Bukhari, Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj Nishapuri and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Muhammad approved of the Hijama (cupping) treatment.[19]

A number of hadith support its recommendation and use by prophet Muhammad.[20] As a result, the practice of cupping therapy has survived in Muslim countries. Today, wet cupping is a popular remedy practiced in many parts of the Muslim world.[21]

In Finland, wet cupping has been done at least since the 15th century, and it is done traditionally in saunas. The cupping cups were made of cattle horns with a valve mechanism in it to create an partial vacuum by sucking the air out. Cupping is still practiced in Finland as part of relaxing and/or health regimens.[22]

Traditional Chinese medicine cupping

Woman receiving fire cupping at a roadside business in Haikou, Hainan, China

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), cupping is a method of creating a vacuum on the patient's skin to dispel stagnation (stagnant blood and lymph), thereby improving qi flow,[23] in order to treat respiratory diseases such as the common cold, pneumonia and bronchitis. Cupping also is used on back, neck, shoulder and other musculoskeletal conditions. Its advocates claim it has other applications as well.[23] Cupping is not advised, in TCM, over skin ulcers or to the abdominal or sacral regions of pregnant women.[24]


An illustration from the medical textbook Exercitationes practicae, published in 1694, shows a man undergoing cupping on his buttocks

For over 3,000 years, the practice has been typically performed unsupervised, by individuals without any medical background. Iranian traditional medicine uses wet-cupping practices, with the belief that cupping with scarification may eliminate scar tissue, and cupping without scarification would cleanse the body through the organs.[25] Individuals with a profound interest in the practice are typically very religious and seek "purification."

There is reason to believe the practice dates from as early as 3000 BC. The Ebers Papyrus, written c. 1550 BC and one of the oldest medical textbooks in the Western world, describes the Egyptians' use of cupping, while mentioning similar practices employed by Saharan peoples. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (c. 400 BC) used cupping for internal disease and structural problems. The method was highly recommended by Muhammad[20] and hence well-practiced by Muslim scientists who elaborated and developed the method further. Consecutively, this method in its multiple forms spread into medicine throughout Asian and European civilizations. In China, the earliest use of cupping that is recorded is from the famous Taoist alchemist and herbalist, Ge Hong (281–341 A.D.).[26] Cupping was also mentioned in Maimonides' book on health and was used within the Eastern European Jewish community.[27]

There is a description of cupping in George Orwell's essay "How the Poor Die", where he was surprised to find it practiced in a Paris hospital.[28]

Society and culture

Cupping has gained publicity in modern times due to its use by American sport celebrities including National Football League player DeMarcus Ware and Olympians Alexander Naddour, Natalie Coughlin, and Michael Phelps.[29] Medical doctor Brad McKay wrote that Team USA was doing a great disservice to their fans who might "follow their lead", calling cupping an "ancient (but useless) traditional therapy."[30] Practicing surgeon David Gorski claims, "it’s all risk for no benefit. It has no place in modern medicine".[31]

Critics of alternative medicine such as Harriet Hall, Mark Crislip, Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst have characterized cupping as "pseudoscience nonsense", "a celebrity fad", and "gibberish". They've stated that there is no evidence that cupping works any better than a placebo. Pharmacologist David Colquhoun writes that cupping is "laughable... and utterly implausible".[1][32]

See also


  1. Hall, Harriet. "Therapy or Injury? Your Tax Dollars at Work". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 8 August 2016.