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Sci Rep. 2016 Nov 17;6:37316. doi: 10.1038/srep37316.

Efficacy of cupping therapy in patients with the fibromyalgia syndrome-a randomised placebo controlled trial.

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Department of Internal and Integrative Medicine, Kliniken Essen-Mitte, Faculty of Medicine, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.
Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine (ARCCIM), University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
Institute of Integrative Medicine, Department of Health, University of Witten/Herdecke, Herdecke, Germany.
Department of Anesthesiology, Berufsgenossenschaftliche Universitätsklinik Bergmannsheil, Bochum, Germany.


This study aimed to test the efficacy of cupping therapy to improve symptoms and quality of life in patients diagnosed with the fibromyalgia syndrome. Participants were randomly assigned to cupping therapy, sham or usual care. Cupping was administered five times at twice weekly intervals on the upper and lower back. The primary outcome measure was pain intensity at day 18. Secondary outcomes included functional disability, quality of life, fatigue and sleep quality as well as pressure pain sensitivity, satisfaction and safety at day 18 and 6 months. Altogether 141 patients were included in this study (139 females, 55.8 ± 9.1 years). After 18 days patients reported significant less pain after cupping compared to usual care (difference -12.4; 95% CI: -18.9; -5.9, p < 0.001) but not compared to sham (difference -3.0; 95% CI: -9.9, 3.9, p = 0.396). Further effects were found for quality of life compared to usual care. Patients were mildly satisfied with cupping and sham cupping; and only minor side effects were observed. Despite cupping therapy being more effective than usual care to improve pain intensity and quality of life, effects of cupping therapy were small and comparable to those of a sham treatment, and as such cupping cannot be recommended for fibromyalgia at the current time.

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