Letter: Cupping isn’t real medicine



I would like to provide some feedback on a recent article published in Current in Zionsville March 18. It was entitled “What is Cupping Therapy” and was located in the Health section, and labeled as a “commentary”, with a further label of “fitness”.

I suggest in the future that you consider labeling such material as “advertisement”, which is more appropriate since it made bold claims of effectiveness of this treatment, for which there is little scientific evidence.

Numerous controlled studies have demonstrated that regardless of the nature of a placebo treatment, approximately 15-25% of people will report some benefit. Thus, one must be very skeptical in evaluating products that use pseudoscientific claims like “toxins”, “cleansing”, “boosting the immune system”, etc.

The piece in question is replete with bold claims often found in advertisements. Exactly how would tiny plastic cups damage sufficient numbers of blood cells, relative to the entire population of such cells in the body, to elicit a therapeutic effect? Further, how would such a treatment work in the numerous diseases mentioned in the piece? In general, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If cupping were as broadly effective as the claims in the piece, why haven’t these claims been supported by the scientific evidence required by regulatory bodies such as the FDA, a randomized trial?

If one looks at the published, peer-reviewed scientific literature, one will note that there have been a couple of very small, and unfortunately mostly poorly controlled trials, that have shown that this treatment has little, if any benefit. Indirect evidence of this is that some studies have tried combining cupping with other treatments like acupuncture and massage to see if an effect could then be shown.

In sum, while this article was labeled as “commentary”, I believe this article was more appropriately labeled as “advertisement”.

You and your management have an awesome opportunity to educate and entertain your audience. I hope in the future you will give pause to the publication of pseudoscience without first noting appropriate caveats, such as labeling such pieces as “advertisement”.

Robert Ilaria, Jr., MD



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