Cupping for chronic nonspecific neck pain: a 2-year follow-up

Forsch Komplementmed. 2013;20(5):328-33. doi: 10.1159/000355634. Epub 2013 Oct 18.


Background: Several trials have shown that cupping might be an effective treatment for chronic nonspecific neck pain, but little is known about the long-term effectiveness. This study aimed to investigate long-term effects of a short series of cupping; therefore additional follow-up measurements were conducted 2 years after completion of 3 studies.

Patients and methods: Participants from 3 randomized waitlist controlled trials on cupping for chronic nonspecific neck pain were followed 2 years after treatment. Outcome measures included neck pain intensity (100 mm Visual Analog Scale; VAS), functional disability (Neck Disability Index, NDI), and health-related quality of life (Short Form 36 Health Survey Questionnaire; SF-36).

Results: 133 of 150 patients had received cupping treatment and were contacted; 82 of them (61.7%) returned the follow-up questionnaires. No effect was found for neck pain intensity, but for physical function (∆ NDI: -3.15; 95% CI: -5.89; -0.41; p = 0.025) and quality of life (∆ physical component summary: 2.97; 95% CI: 0.97; 4.97; p = 0.004; ∆ bodily pain: 14.53; 95 % CI: 9.67; 19.39; p < 0.001). Mean duration of cupping effect was 8.9 ± 8.7 months with 16 patients reporting that neck pain had not yet reached the level before cupping. The majority of the patients did not continue cupping therapy, mostly due to lack of providers, costs or loss of interest.

Conclusions: A series of cupping treatments did not influence neck pain intensity on the longer term, however significant increases were found for physical function and quality of life in patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain. Due to the considerable drop-out rate conclusions are limited. There is evidence suggesting that cupping treatment might have sustainable effects in some patients. Further randomized controlled trials with long-term follow-up are urgently needed for conclusive judgment of long-term effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Complementary Therapies / standards*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / therapy*
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Outcome