Dry cupping for musculoskeletal pain and range of motion: A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2020 Oct;24(4):503-518. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2020.06.024. Epub 2020 Jul 30.


Objectives: This review evaluated the efficacy and safety of western dry cupping methods for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and reduced range of motion.

Methods: A systematic literature search was performed until April 2018 for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) pertaining to musculoskeletal pain or reduced range of motion, treated with dry cupping. Outcomes were pain, functional status, range of motion and adverse events. Risk of bias and quality of evidence was assessed using the modified Downs & Black (D&B) checklist and GRADE.

Results: A total of 21 RCTs with 1049 participants were included. Overall, the quality of evidence was fair, with a mean D&B score of 18/28. Low-quality evidence revealed dry cupping had a significant effect on pain reduction for chronic neck pain (MD, -21.67; 95% CI, -36.55, to -6.80) and low back pain (MD, -19.38; 95%CI, -28.09, to -10.66). Moderate-quality evidence suggested that dry cupping improved functional status for chronic neck pain (MD, -4.65; 95%CI, -6.44, to -2.85). For range of motion, low quality evidence revealed a significant difference when compared to no treatment (SMD, -0.75; 95%CI, -0.75, to -0.32).

Conclusion: Dry cupping was found to be effective for reducing pain in patients with chronic neck pain and non-specific low back pain. However, definitive conclusions regarding the effectiveness and safety of dry cupping for musculoskeletal pain and range of motion were unable to be made due to the low-moderate quality of evidence. Further high-quality trials with larger sample sizes, long-term follow up, and reporting of adverse events are warranted.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain* / therapy
  • Musculoskeletal Pain* / therapy
  • Pain Measurement
  • Range of Motion, Articular