How Cupping Could Bring Relief for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia Cupping – Cupping is a treatment for chronic pains just like acupuncture and it comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Researchers say that it has been used back to at least the fourth century. Moreover, it is gaining public acceptance and the attention of some medical practitioners in the West. Furthermore, Awareness was dramatically increased when U.S. swimmer extraordinaire Michael Phelps showed up at a 2016 Olympic event in Rio with round hickey-like marks all down his back.

However, Western medicine has not believed in cupping very much. We do have some research from China on cupping as a fibromyalgia treatment.

Fibromyalgia Cupping

The traditional method of cupping involves little glass globes that look like the mini fishbowls. First, the practitioner puts a small amount of something flammable (such as rubbing alcohol or herbs) inside the cup and lights it on fire which depletes the oxygen inside the cup.

Moreover, the practitioner turns the cup upside down and places it on your skin. The air inside the cup then cools down and creates a vacuum. The vacuums cause your skin to dome-up inside the cup, which makes the blood vessels expand.

Furthermore, your skin gets the round suction marks that make it look like if you have been attacked by an octopus.

Of course, glass and flame are not the safest materials to work with. Moreover, some practitioners have left the globes and flammable materials behind in favor of plastic cups that attach to a pump. Contrarily, they simply put the cup on your skin and squeeze the pump a few times to get the suction going. The effect is the same, only without the risk of burns.

TCM teaches that cupping opens up the pores, stimulates blood flow, and balances your qi (pronounced “chee”), which is the flow of energy through your body. It is often combined with acupuncture.


In China, cupping has long been used to treat a variety of conditions, including:


  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Arthritis and other types of pain
  • Digestive problems
  • Depression

In the West, we do not yet have research on the physiological effects of cupping. Furthermore, what conditions it may be effective at treating, has not been tested yet.

Cupping for Fibromyalgia

The first Chinese research on cupping as a fibromyalgia treatment was published in 2006. Researchers used acupuncture, cupping, and the drug amitriptyline in the treatment group and amitriptyline alone in the control group.

In the end, they concluded that acupuncture, cupping and drug group improved significantly more than the drug-only group when it came to both pain and depression.

A similar but larger study in 2010 divided participants into three groups:

  1. Acupuncture + cupping + amitriptyline
  2. Acupuncture + cupping
  3. Amitriptyline only

Researchers conclude that group 1 fared best, suggesting that both the drug and the TCM were effective. Moreover, they were able to complement each other.

A 2010 review of literature on TCM for fibromyalgia mentioned positive results of cupping. Moreover, TCM therapies needed to be tested in larger studies with better designs than the early work.

Furthermore, a 2011 study looked at cupping alone. Thirty people with fibromyalgia were given cupping therapy for 10 minutes a day for 15 days. Researchers looked at pain and tender-point count before, during, and two weeks after treatment.

They concluded that cupping reduced both fibromyalgia pain and the number of tender points. Moreover, their findings warranted a placebo-controlled clinical trial.

Is Cupping Right for You?

Cupping is considered a generally safe treatment when it is performed by a qualified practitioner. Moreover, it is often performed by acupuncturists and massage therapists.

You should not get cupping treatments when you have the following body conditions:

  • High fever
  •  Convulsions
  • If you bleed easily
  • Skin is inflamed

Moreover, with fibromyalgia, many people have a type of pain called allodynia. It means your nervous system turns normally non-painful sensations into pain. Due to that, you may experience more pain than someone else during cupping. Furthermore, you may want to make sure your practitioner does not put cups on areas where you frequently have allodynia.

Firstly, you have to talk to your doctor, if you want to try cupping. Last but not least, once you decide to try it, make sure you are getting it from a reputable practitioner.

Moreover, pay attention to how you feel in the days after a cupping treatment. This is to see whether it seems to be triggering any symptoms.

Keep in mind that cupping appears to be an effective complementary treatment. Do not expect it to replace your medications or other treatments. Instead, consider it one more weapon in your arsenal against fibromyalgia symptoms.

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