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Forsch Komplementmed. 2011;18(6):327-34. doi: 10.1159/000335294. Epub 2011 Dec 2.

Randomized controlled trial of pulsating cupping (pneumatic pulsation therapy) for chronic neck pain.

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Chair of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.



Pneumatic pulsation therapy may combine the effects of cupping therapy and massage. This study investigated the effect of pneumatic pulsation therapy on chronic neck pain compared to standard medical care.


50 patients (79.15% female; 46.17 ± 12.21 years) with chronic nonspecific neck pain were randomized to treatment group (TG; n = 25) or control group (CG; n = 25). The TG received 5 pneumatic pulsation treatments over a period of 2 weeks utilizing a mechanical device. Treatment was applied as a combination of moving and stationary pulsating cupping. Main outcome measure was pain intensity in pain diaries (numerical rating scale). Secondary outcome measures included functional disability (NDI), quality of life (SF-36), and pain at motion. Sensory thresholds, including pressure pain threshold, were measured at pain-related sites.


After the intervention, significant group differences occurred regarding pain intensity (baseline: 4.12 ± 1.45 in TG and 4.20 ± 1.57 in CG; post-intervention: 2.72 ± 1.62 in TG and 4.44 ± 1.96 in CG; analysis of covariance: p = 0.001), NDI (baseline: 25.92 ± 8.23 and 29.83; post-intervention: 20.44 ± 10.17 and 28.83; p = 0.025), and physical quality of life (baseline: 43.85 ± 7.65 and 41.66 ± 7.09; post-intervention: 47.60 ± 7.93 and 40.49 ± 8.03; p = 0.002). Further significant group differences were found for pain at motion (p = 0.004) and pressure pain threshold (p = 0.002). No serious adverse events were reported.


Pneumatic pulsation therapy appears to be a safe and effective method to relieve pain and to improve function and quality of life in patients with chronic neck pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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