We can thank actress Gwyneth Paltrow for pretty much introducing cupping therapy to western civilization. She raised some eyebrows when she attended a film premiere in 2004 with huge red circles across her shoulder blades, fueling speculations as to what might have caused it.
Five years later she’s still a big fan, the Daily Express quotes her: “…I have been helped tremendously by the practices [of cupping, acupuncture, and Chinese medicine] that help the body heal itself.“
The invention of cupping practice gets attributed to Tang Dynasty(around 7th to 10th century) China, but there’s been evidence of the practice all over the world for much longer, especially in the middle east and Africa. Back then they used animal horns, while these days they’re often made out of glass, bamboo, or plastic.
Maybe Gwyneth was the inspiration for a German study on cupping for carpal tunnel earlier this year. The results were reported in the Journal of Pain, a bad name for a good journal! Although the results of the trial were positive, the conclusion of the paper was that results are “tentatively positive” because they also got good results from the control group which was treated with just heat (which will be good for at least 1/3rd of carpal tunnel anyway!).
Even the folks at the Mayo Clinic seem to have noticed its existence! Dr. Bauer remarks that there’s “no conclusive evidence that cupping therapy relieves fibromyalgia pain. But anecdotal evidence suggests a benefit.” My current one-and-only fibromyalgia patient loves cupping.
These are just some of the examples of a trend towards increasing consciousness about the therapies of Chinese medicine. I love the studies being done, but I really wish they would consult some experts to help design the trials.