The effect of cupping therapy for low back pain: A meta-analysis based on existing randomized controlled trials

J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2017 Nov 6;30(6):1187-1195. doi: 10.3233/BMR-169736.


Background: LBP is one of the most common symptoms with high prevalence throughout the world. Conflicting conclusions exist in RCTs on cupping for LBP.

Objective: To assess the effects and safety of cupping for the patients with LBP.

Methods: Pubmed, Cochrane Library databases, and Embase database were electronically researched. RCTs reporting the cupping for the patients with LBP were included. The meta-analysis was conducted using Review Manager software (version 5.3, Nordic Cochrane Centre). The primary outcome was VAS scores. The secondary outcomes included ODI scores, MPPI scores and complications.

Results: Six RCTs were included in this synthesized analysis. The results showed that cupping therapy was superior to the control management with respect to VAS scores (SMD: -0.73, [95% CI: -1.42 to -0.04]; P= 0.04), and ODI scores (SMD: -3.64, [95% CI: -5.85 to -1.42]; P= 0.001). There was no statistical significant difference as regard to MPPI scores. No serious adverse event was reported in the included studies.

Conclusions: Cupping therapy can significantly decrease the VAS scores and ODI scores for patients with LBP compared to the control management. High heterogeneity and risk of bias existing in studies limit the authenticity of the findings.

Keywords: Low back pain; cupping therapy; meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disability Evaluation
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Visual Analog Scale