In this blog post I will be looking at cupping to relieve pain. To perform the procedure, one simply has to heat the air bulbous cup and attach the cup to the back of the patient. As the hot air cools it's volume decreases, creating pressure which pulls skin into the cup.
This supposedly opens the pores to let toxins out, improve blood flow, and restore "qi," an eastern measure of energy flow and well-being. Wet cupping is the same process, but you cut the skin on the back first so that the cup fills with blood. Using what we have learned in psychology, one must be skeptical of these claims. Let's look at qi. This can not be seen as scientific because it can not be disproved. There is no measure of qi or tangible evidence of whether it exists at all. There are no studies to prove toxins are released or that blood drawn in wet cupping is more toxic than the rest of your blood. All of the support is anecdotal! I found one research study, performed in Iran, that claims to scientifically quantify the benefits. They claimed that headache severity went down 66% and patients experienced 12.6 fewer days of headache per month. These results aren't reliable for two reasons. First; there is no control group. It's not even an experiment since we have nothing to compare the results to. The recovery could be due to the placebo effect, people feeling better because of treatment. Secondly, a person reporting their headache on a pain scale is not hard data, it is subjective to that persons perception. For these reasons I don't feel that cupping is a scientifically sound form of healing.
Here is a video of the procedure: