Back pain is a common aggravating problem, and it can be difficult to treat effectively. One promising treatment comes from traditional Asian medicine and may be offered by acupuncture clinics, chiropractic clinics with acupuncturists on staff, and integrative pain management centers. This therapy is known as cupping:
About Cupping Therapy
The therapy involves placing glass or plastic cups on the patient's back and slowly withdrawing air from the cups through a valve with a vacuum pump. That creates suction on the skin. The cups may be in a variety of sizes and shapes, depending on the specific effects the practitioner wants to achieve. The devices remain on the skin for several minutes.
Traditionally, the vacuum was created with heat, but a vacuum pump is generally safer than attempting to regulate the temperature of plastic or glass on skin.
This treatment typically is used along with acupuncture or dry needling, a somewhat similar practice that a number of chiropractors provide. The cups can be used on their own or placed over a needle.
Benefits of Cupping Therapy
The pulling effect stimulates blood flow to the area, which enhances healing by bringing more oxygen and nutrients. It's believed that new blood vessels form in this part of the body, a healthy result that improves circulation. Cupping also stretches muscle fascia and connective tissue, leading to greater flexibility.
A certain amount of inflammation occurs, which also stimulates the body to heal.
Patients may feel a bit of discomfort at the treated site during the therapy. After therapy, patients can expect a mark in the area that looks like a bruise; this is due to capillaries breaking during the suction effect.
Numerous studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of cupping therapy. A systematic review of 16 studies that was published in 2014 found that cupping was more effective than heat therapy and conventional medication used to treat acute and chronic pain. Adding cupping to acupuncture treatment increased the beneficial results of acupuncture.
The studies reviewed verified short-term beneficial effects; longer-term studies are still needed.
You may find that combining cupping with acupuncture and another therapy, such as massage or chiropractic care, is more effective for back pain than treatments you have tried so far. Contact pain management practitioners to learn which ones in your region offer this type of therapy, and then make an appointment to give the treatment a try.
Contact a company such as Southwest Florida Neurosurgical Associates if you have other questions.