The influence of a series of five dry cupping treatments on pain and mechanical thresholds in patients with chronic non-specific neck pain : A randomised controlled pilot study
Background: In this preliminary trial we investigated the effects of dry cupping, an ancient method for treating pain syndromes, on patients with chronic non-specific neck pain. Sensory mechanical thresholds and the participants' self-reported outcome measures of pain and quality of life were evaluated. Methods: Fifty patients (50.5 ± 11.9 years) were randomised to a treatment group (TG) or a waiting-list control group (WL). Patients in the TG received a series of 5 cupping treatments over a period of 2 weeks; the control group did not. Self-reported outcome measures before and after the cupping series included the following: Pain at rest (PR) and maximal pain related to movement (PM) on a 100-mm visual analogue scale (VAS), pain diary (PD) data on a 0-10 numeric rating scale (NRS), Neck Disability Index (NDI), and health-related quality of life (SF-36). In addition, the mechanical-detection thresholds (MDT), vibration-detection thresholds (VDT), and pressure-pain thresholds (PPT) were determined at pain-related and control areas. Results: Patients of the TG had significantly less pain after cupping therapy than patients of the WL group (PR: Δ-22.5 mm, p = 0.00002; PM: Δ-17.8 mm, p = 0.01). Pain diaries (PD) revealed that neck pain decreased gradually in the TG patients and that pain reported by the two groups differed significantly after the fifth cupping session (Δ-1.1, p = 0.001). There were also significant differences in the SF-36 subscales for bodily pain (Δ13.8, p = 0.006) and vitality (Δ10.2, p = 0.006). Group differences in PPT were significant at pain-related and control areas (all p < 0.05), but were not significant for MDT or VDT. Conclusions: A series of five dry cupping treatments appeared to be effective in relieving chronic non-specific neck pain. Not only subjective measures improved, but also mechanical pain sensitivity differed significantly between the two groups, suggesting that cupping has an influence on functional pain processing.
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