Cupping

I saw a program on Fox News (a so-called “extra”) that was little more than an advert for an unconventional and ancient medical procedure called “cupping.”  This should have gone out completely with the development of scientific medicine, but apparently in our faddish and trendy times, some people will actually pay good money for this procedure.

The process involves heating the inside of a small glass cup with a flame and then upending it on the body, usually the back, where a small vacuum forms as the air inside cools, and the result is that a lump of tissue is pulled up into the cup.  The earnest proponent of this form of supposed therapy explained that the blood is drawn to the surface and the procedure “removes toxins” that accumulate in the blood.  Now how it removes them and what these toxins actually are was not explained, because first nothing is actually removed, the cupping only brings blood to the surface (probably some capillaries are broken) but nothing actually leaves the body, so nothing is “removed” and secondly, how is the process specific for “toxins”?   It is clearly only a process to bring some blood to the surface, but there is no way to select any supposed toxins from the rest of the blood.  It is so stupid that it is incredible that anyone today would submit themselves to this useless medieval quackery.  I am astonished that a so-called News organization like Fox would allow itself to be used for the propagation of such fakery.

This is not the first time I have heard that a procedure, usually one that is trendy rather than medically proven, is supposed to remove “toxins.”  Exactly what these toxins are and how they are removed is never explained, because in fact there is no rational explanation.   In this area I would include most of what is called “alternative medicine,”  which is a misnomer because it is really not medical.  Another example is use of low intensity laser treatment.  I had some friends who used to go regularly to Tel Aviv to pay a lot of money to have lasers passed across their muscles.  In fact, as I explained to them, all the laser is doing it heating the skin, it hardly penetrates below the skin for more than a millimeter, and you could have the same effect by using hot water, and it costs a lot less.  After swearing that it helped them (the placebo effect) they eventually admitted that the effect usually lasted only for a few hours.  This is not to say that lasers do not have valid medical uses, but that is usually high power lasers that are used to ablate tissue (such as tumors) or blood vessels.

I had a similar discussion/argument with some friends regarding the use of homeopathy, where lower doses are supposed to cause a greater medical effect, which it totally counter-intuitive.  Some years ago a major scientific study reported in a premier journal tested this hypothesis and found it to be unfounded, yet many people still swear by it.  My advice is don’t use any procedure or medicine that has not passed a double-blind study  (a study in which neither the patient nor the doctor knows what is being tested) and that has not been approved by the US FDA.  Some people argue that this approval is too costly and unnecessary, but that is not true, if a treatment is truly effective then it is worth proving it, since doctor’s cannot prescribe a procedure or medicine that has not been approved for human use.

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