Cupping is an ancient therapy used today as an alternative therapy for a variety of conditions. It has limited effectiveness but a definite risk for complications.

Cupping exposes the skin to a mild suction. There are several ways to generate a negative pressure including cooling of a heated cup and use of a suction bulb.


Many variations exist including:

(1) wet cupping: with bleeding

(2) dry cupping: without bleeding

(3) fire cupping


Complications include:

(1) burn

(2) anemia and iron deficiency (with wet cupping)

(3) infection

(4) bruising and petechiae

(5) panniculitis

(6) keloid

(7) hyperpigmentation

(8) plaque

(9) bullae

(10) localized psoriasis

(11) mistaken as evidence of abuse

(12) delay in giving a better therapy


Risk factors for complications:

(1) excessive and prolonged cupping

(2) inexperienced operator

(3) contaminated equipment

(4) failure to adequately clean the skin

(5) excessive heating of the cup

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