Cupping for treating neck pain in video display terminal (VDT) users: a randomized controlled pilot trial

Kim TH1, Kang JW, Kim KH, Lee MH, Kim JE, Kim JH, Lee S, Shin MS, Jung SY, Kim AR, Park HJ, Hong KE.

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1Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, South Korea.


This was a randomized controlled pilot trial to evaluate the effectiveness of cupping therapy for neck pain in video display terminal (VDT) workers.


Forty VDT workers with moderate to severe neck pain were recruited from May, 2011 to February, 2012. Participants were randomly allocated into one of the two interventions: 6 sessions of wet and dry cupping or heating pad application. The participants were offered an exercise program to perform during the participation period. A 0 to 100 numeric rating scale (NRS) for neck pain, measure yourself medical outcome profile 2 score (MYMOP2 score), cervical spine range of motion (C-spine ROM), neck disability index (NDI), the EuroQol health index (EQ-5D), short form stress response inventory (SRI-SF) and fatigue severity scale (FSS) were assessed at several points during a 7-week period.


Compared with a heating pad, cupping was more effective in improving pain (adjusted NRS difference: -1.29 [95% CI -1.61, -0.97] at 3 weeks (p=0.025) and -1.16 [-1.48, -0.84] at 7 weeks (p=0.005)), neck function (adjusted NDI difference: -0.79 [-1.11, -0.47] at 3 (p=0.0039) and 7 weeks (p<0.0001)) and discomfort (adjusted MYMOP2 difference score: -0.72 [-1.04 to -0.40] at 3 weeks and -0.92 [-1.24, -0.60] at 7 weeks). Significant improvement in EQ-5D was observed at 7 weeks (1.0 [0.88, 1.0] with cupping and 0.91 [0.86, 0.91] with heating pad treatment, p=0.0054). Four participants reported mild adverse events of cupping.


Two weeks of cupping therapy and an exercise program may be effective in reducing pain and improving neck function in VDT workers.

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