Evidence-based and adverse-effects analyses of cupping therapy in musculoskeletal and sports rehabilitation: A systematic and evidence-based review

Ayman A. Mohamed, Xueyan Zhang, Yih-kuen Jan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review



Cupping therapy has been used to treat musculoskeletal impairments for about 4000 years. Recently, world athletes have provoked an interest in it, however, the evidence to support its use in managing musculoskeletal and sports conditions remains unknown.


To evaluate the evidence level of the effect of cupping therapy in managing common musculoskeletal and sports conditions.


2214 studies were identified through a computerized search, of which 22 met the inclusion criteria. The search involved randomized and case series studies published between 1990 and 2019. The search involved five databases (Scopus, MEDLINE (PubMed), Web of Science, Academic Search Complete PLUS (EBSCO), and CrossRef) and contained studies written in the English language. Three analyses were included: the quality assessment using the PEDro scale, physical characteristic analysis, and evidence-based analysis.


The results showed that most studies used dry cupping, except five which used wet cupping. Most studies compared cupping therapy to non-intervention, the remaining studies compared cupping to standard medical care, heat, routine physiotherapy, electrical stimulation, active range of motion and stretching, passive stretching, or acetaminophen. Treatment duration ranged from 1 day to 12 weeks. The evidence of cupping on increasing soft tissue flexibility is moderate, decreasing low back pain or cervical pain is low to moderate, and treating other musculoskeletal conditions is very low to low. The incidence of adverse events is very low.


This study provides the first attempt to analyze the evidence level of cupping therapy in musculoskeletal and sports rehabilitation. However, cupping therapy has low to moderate evidence in musculoskeletal and sports rehabilitation and might be used as a useful intervention because it decreases the pain level and improves blood flow to the affected area with low adverse effects.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation
Issue number1
Early online dateAug 19 2022
StatePublished - 2023


  • Cupping therapy
  • rehabilitation modality
  • pain
  • sports
  • fatigue
  • musculoskeletal injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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