New is the well-forgotten old: The use of dry cupping in musculoskeletal medicine

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2016 Jan;20(1):173-178. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2015.11.009. Epub 2015 Dec 1.


Cupping is an ancient technique used in treating pain and various disorders. Different techniques have been developed over time, however, applying a cup to create suction over a painful area, is common to all. Dry or fire cupping, used on the intact skin, leaves bluish circular hematomas. Recently, interest in cupping has re-emerged and subsequently, several studies have begun to investigate the mechanisms of cupping therapy. Mechanically, cupping increases blood circulation, whereas physiologically it activates the immune system and stimulates the mechanosensitive fibers, thus leading to a reduction in pain. There is initial scientific evidence that dry cupping is able to reduce musculoskeletal pain. Since cupping is an inexpensive, noninvasive and low-risk (if performed by a trained practitioner) therapeutic modality, we believe that it should be included in the arsenal of musculoskeletal medicine. It is essential to perform additional studies clarifying the biological mechanism and clinical effects of cupping.

Keywords: Cupping; Dry cupping; Musculoskeletal pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies / adverse effects
  • Complementary Therapies / methods*
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / physiopathology*
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / therapy*