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Lower back pain (LBP) is one of the most common conditions affecting adults globally. Non-specific lower back pain (NSLBP) is a diagnosis based on the exclusion of other pathoanatomical causes, and accounts for over 80% of cases of LBP. 1 Current treatments typically involve a multidisciplinary approach. Dry cupping therapy is a noninvasive treatment option that is used to treat musculoskeletal pain. 2 Three studies were analyzed which assess the utility of dry cupping therapy as a treatment modality for non-acute NSLBP; two of the studies were randomized control trials, and the third was a small pilot study. All three studies were carried out within the last 10 years, included participants with a diagnosis of NSLBP greater than eight weeks duration, and all participants were over the age of 18. Pain intensity scores taken after dry cupping therapy sessions were assessed in all three studies. Both randomized control trials compared the scores from their experimental groups to pain intensity scores after sham cupping therapy in their control groups. The pilot study was composed of only an experimental group, and the pain intensity scores were assessed after one dry cupping therapy session was carried out. One of the primary outcomes of all three studies was pain intensity reduction after treatment using the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) and the Numerical Pain Rating Scale. The larger randomized control trial (Almeida Silva, et al.) showed a similar reduction in pain intensity between both the experimental and control groups at all three tested time intervals, whereas in the smaller control trial (Salemi, et al.), the experimental group showed a greater reduction in pain intensity than the control group at both tested time intervals. The pilot study showed a reduction in pain intensity immediately post treatment. Additional trials with larger sample sizes are needed to determine the true efficacy of dry cupping therapy for pain reduction in NSLBP patients before it becomes a mainstay of treatment.
Albrecht L, Ettari K, Efficacy of Dry Cupping Therapy as Treatment for Non-Specific Lower Back Pain. James Madison University Physician Assistant Program Capstone 2023.