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Dry cupping for low back pain

...does it lead to better outcomes than sham therapy?

Chronic low back pain is a common problem in adults and can result in disability, physical and psychological impairment, limitations in daily activities and participation restriction.

Most low back pain is non-specific low back pain, which means that it is not possible to attribute it to a reliable pathoanatomical cause. Clinical practice guidelines recommend non-pharmacological interventions as the first-line management for low back pain, including exercises, psychological therapies and, in some cases, multidisciplinary biopsychosocial rehabilitation.

Cupping is an ancient Chinese alternative therapy, which became famous worldwide after it was used by swimmer Michael Phelps during the 2016 Olympic Games held in Brazil. Google Trends reported a 2,100% spike in searches for cupping therapy in 2016, and cupping therapy became a trending topic that year. While many patients have expressed interest in receiving cupping for low back pain, currently, there is a lack of studies that investigate the effects of cupping therapy in individuals with chronic low back pain.

Negligible effects were also found on physical function, functional mobility and perceived overall effect, where mean estimates and their confidence intervals all excluded worthwhile effects. No worthwhile benefits could be confirmed for any of the remaining secondary outcomes.

The researchers concluded that cupping therapy was not effective for any relevant outcomes in people with non-specific chronic low back pain.

> From: Almeida Silva, J Physiother 67 (2021) 132-139 . All rights reserved to Australian Physiotherapy Association. Click here for the online summary.

Want to read deeper into this topic? Have a look at the free full text version of this article published in Journal of Physiotherapy!

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