Ancient cupping technique may help relieve neck pain

Aug 22 2011
Neck pain is a common complaint of many adults across the U.S. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), an estimated 15 percent of Americans have experienced neck pain in the past three months.

Recent research published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine tested the effectiveness of an uncommon treatment for pain. The study suggests that cupping, an ancient medical technique, can effectively alleviate neck pain.

According to BioMed Central, dry cupping is an ancient treatment that was commonly used in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It consists of applying heated glass cups to the skin for five to ten minutes. The cups create suction, which helps to increase circulation or to alleviate muscle tension.

The study tested the effects of cupping on 50 patients who suffered from chronic neck pain. The individuals were asked to keep a daily pain journal and were also administered questionnaires about the severity of their pain. After a series of five cupping treatments, participants reported lowered pain sensitivity and significant improvement of pain overall. The researchers also found that the continued use of cupping made it more effective than just as a one-time treatment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, neck pain can often develop with age or due to a sedentary work environment, such as an office. Stress, muscle strains and nerve com pression are also possible causes of pain, according to the clinic website. Patients with neck pain often try many conservative or alternative treatments before considering more drastic procedures, such as surgery. Some commonly used treatments are anti-inflammatory medications or physical therapy to strengthen the area, according to the clinic. Other alternative remedies include acupuncture, massages or chiropractic adjustment. However, cupping may become more popular as many patients seek additional options to relieve their pain.

According to BMC, cupping has been shown to regularly result in pain relief and also cause a general feeling of well-being. Although the technique was widely considered effective in the past, it has not been used commonly in modern medicine, possibly due to the bruising caused by the procedure. The method has gained more popularity in recent years as a Chinese Olympic swimmer competed in 2008 with the marks left from cupping on her back, according to The Daily Mail. Some celebrities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Paris Hilton, have also been seen with cupping marks, according to the newspaper.