RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Gwyneth Paltrow attracted attention a few years ago when she attended an awards show with strange red welts on her back. It turned out she’d just undergone cupping therapy, a traditional Chinese treatment that uses glass jars placed on the skin. A new study published in the Journal of Pain finds evidence that it’s useful in alleviating the tingling and numbness associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
THE DETAILS: Researchers assigned 52 patients diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome—finger and wrist pain that occurs when pressure is placed on a nerve protected by the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway in your wrist—to one of two groups. The first group received cupping therapy, in which glass jars are placed over a section of punctured skin and air pumps placed at the opposite ends of the jars remove air to form a vacuum. The suction draws blood to the skin’s surface, which is thought to improve circulation and alleviate pain. In this case, the glasses were placed for five to 10 minutes over the shoulder muscle to affect the nerve that gets aggravated in carpal tunnel syndrome. In a second group, heating pads were placed over the same shoulder muscle for 15 minutes at a time. The cupping therapy group did significantly better after seven days, experiencing a 60 percent decrease in their symptom scores, compared to 23 percent for the other group.