A German study published in The Journal of Pain showed that an external suction technique mainly used outside the U.S., called cupping, is effective for providing temporary relief of pain from carpal tunnel syndrome (CPS).
Researchers from Immanuel Hospital Berlin randomly divided fifty-two CPS patients into treatment and control groups. The treatment group was given wet cupping therapy in which cupping glasses are applied to skin overlaying the trapezius muscle following 5 to 10 skin punctures with a sterile lancet. A partial vacuum is created by electromechanical or manual suction within the cupping glass after it is applied to the skin.
The technique is used as a healing method in China, India, Arabia, Central Europe and parts of Africa. Cupping is applied to defined zones of the shoulder triangle which are connective tissue zones at the shoulder-neck region. The technique is believed to increase microcirculation to help relieve CPS symptoms.
Results showed that CTS patients given cupping treatment experienced a highly significant decrease in CPS pain and other symptoms. A single treatment improved functional ability and quality for life for a week. The authors offered three possible explanations for the positive therapeutic action:
- Local bloodletting cause by cupping altered tissue perfusion and metabolism and may have affected the medial nerve function
- Cupping may have antinociceptive effects
- Cupping therapy simply might generate a powerful placebo effect.
Patient tolerated the treatments very well. In clinical practice, cupping can be performed conveniently and repeatedly. The authors noted that further studies are needed to assess the long-term value of cupping therapy for treatment of CPS pain.
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