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Forsch Komplementmed. 2012;19(2):68-74. doi: 10.1159/000337688. Epub 2012 Apr 11.

My back has shrunk: the influence of traditional cupping on body image in patients with chronic non-specific neck pain.

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  • 1Chair of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.



In conditions such as phantom limb pain and low back pain body image is distorted. This qualitative study investigates body image in patients with chronic non-specific neck pain (CNP), its influence on their everyday life and any changes linked to traditional cupping therapy.


The study was conducted with a convenience sample of 6 patients with CNP from a larger randomised controlled trial (RCT) on cupping. The data came from body image drawings and semi-structured interviews. The latter were analysed using Mayring's content analysis techniques.


The patients' drawings showed apparent body image distortions with elements that were missing or deformed. The interviews showed that pain was the predominant perception, influencing patients' body perception. Patients saw their pain as beyond their control, using mostly passive strategies to cope. After cupping, patients reported less pain and improved pain perception. These changes were reflected in their drawings.


Patients with CNP experienced apparent body image distortions, which traditional cupping therapy appeared to improve. Additional research is needed to further explore this link.

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