What Science Says
The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) says cupping is not painful, and the red marks left on the skin are caused by blood being drawn to the surface and small capillaries rupturing.
The BAcC warns that on “rare occasions” the hot cups can cause mild burns. It has published rules of practice for cupping, and advises people only to visit properly-trained practitioners who are accredited members of their organization.
Practitioners claim cupping helps with a huge variety of ailments from muscle problems, pain relief, arthritis, insomnia, fertility issues, and cellulite.
Jackie Long, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner in central London who has practiced cupping for 20 years, says the idea is to help the flow of energy – known as traditional Chinese medicine as “qi” – around the body, and rebalance its equilibrium – “ying and yang”. The darker the mark left by the cup, he says, the poorer the blood circulation is in that part of the body.
While there have “certainly been satisfied customers for 3,000 years”, Professor Edzard Ernst from the department of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter previously told the BBC it was not a proven medical treatment.
He insisted it was a relatively safe practice, but added: “There is no evidence for its efficacy. It has not been submitted to clinical trials.”
Pharmacologist Prof David Colquhoun, from University College London, dismissed cupping as “hocus pocus” and told the BBC: “It’s just pulling up a bit of skin, it is not going to affect the muscle to any noticeable extent.
“And taken to extreme, it can cause harm, it usually doesn’t, it’s usually just a – what [British physician] Ben Goldacre would call – a voluntary tax on the gullible.”
However, a 2012 study in the journal PLOS One found that cupping could potentially be effective for some medical conditions such as acne and facial paralysis. Whether it works for athletes remains to be seen.Pages: 1 2