Summary of clinical evidence for cupping therapy: an overview of systematic reviews

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Cao H1, Han M1, Zhu X2, Liu J1
1Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, China, 2University of Western Sydney, Australia

Background: As a traditional treatment, cupping therapy is widely used in Asian countries.However, the efficacy of this traditional treatment has not been supported by scientific rigorous evidence.

Objectives: This overview of systematic reviews (SR) is to collect and analyze the clinical systematically evidence of cupping therapy, to investigate the efficacy and safety of cupping treatment through an evidence-based medicine approach.

Methods: SRs that assessed the effectiveness of cupping therapy for any type of disease were searched for through six electronic databases. Type of target diseases, details of cupping method, number and type of included studies, quality of included trials, main results (included results of meta-analysis), and authors’ conclusions of included SRs were extracted. Methodological quality of SRs was evaluated according to the Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews measurement.

Results: Eight SRs met the inclusion criteria; these assessed the effect of cupping therapy on eleven diseases. All these included SRs were of good methodological quality, however the quality of included trials was generally poor. Four of the SRs conducted meta-analysis, results showed cupping therapy (alone or combined with other interventions) was better than medications (or other interventions alone) for herpes zoster, acne, facial paralysis, low back pain, or cervical spondylosis. One review reported the potential adverse events as hematoma, increasing pain and tingling feel after cupping treatment.

Conclusions: Cupping therapy may have benefit in treating pain-related conditions, acne and facial paralysis, however, confirmed conclusions could not be drawn due to the low quality of the original studies.