With the recent Rio Olympics, lots of people have been asking me about “cupping”. The red circular marks all over Michael Phelps back and shoulders. I remember my parents talking about this technique called “Bankes” in the shtetls of eastern Europe at the early part of the 1900’s. This treatment was done oft-times by the local barber turned medicine man of the local town or village. People went for this treatment when they didn’t have the means to see a regular doctor. Even though this treatment may have its origins in Chinese medicine it has been adapted by my cultures and today has become popular in the US.
So what does it do? The welts are caused by placing glass cups or suction cups on the skin and then using heat (lighting matches under the glass cups) or using a suction device to pull the skin upwards. The cups are left on for a few minutes and once removed leave a red welt area on the skin. The purpose of cupping is to bring blood flow and increased circulation into the area to promote healing.
But does it work? In a word no. We have no evidence that cupping makes any difference at all other than psychological. However, there is no evidence that it does any harm either.
The bottom line is if you want to experience cupping, it may be mildly uncomfortable and unsightly, but it will not do any harm. You’ll be out the cost of treatment but that’s about
My own personal opinion however is negative.
It bothers me a bit when I see people spending their hard-earned money on treatments that are unproven, especially when treatments exist that have undergone investigation and scrutiny that we know make a difference.
I believe cupping, like many fads will go as fast as it came.
In the future, tried, studied and proven treatments will continue to be used because they work, and new treatments will be developed and should be proven before being put into use on patients.