A Case Series of Burns from Cupping Therapy.

Dr Jenaleen Law1, Dr Aruna Wijewardena1, Dr Robert Gates1

1Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, Australia


Introduction: Cupping therapy is a physical treatment that dates back to ancient Egyptian, Middle Eastern, and Asian cultures. A cup is heated by an accelerant and placed on the target region which induces local negative pressure and causes focal hyperaemia. This technique has been used for thousands of years and remains in use today to treat common ailments such as headaches, neuralgia, colds, and indigestion. Cupping, however, can result in adverse outcomes such as serious burns.

Case Series: This is a case series of three patients who were recently managed for cupping-related burn injuries at Royal North Shore Hospital. All three incidents were accidental, occurred at home, and were due to flame burns accelerated by methylated spirits. A 31-year-old gentleman received cupping therapy for neck pain. He sustained 27% Total Body Surface Area (TBSA) mixed thickness burns to his scalp, abdomen, axilla, and upper limb, requiring debridement and skin grafting. A 70-year-old lady received cupping therapy for neck discomfort and sustained 3% TBSA mid-dermal burns to her neck and shoulders requiring inpatient management. A 65-year-old lady sustained 1% TBSA circumferential superficial dermal hand burns from administering cupping therapy.

Conclusion: Cupping therapy continues to be utilised for its potential physical and psychological benefits. While cupping-related burns are often minor, they can also lead to significant injuries. It is therefore important to educate both practitioners and patients of the potential risks and to highlight fire safety and the dangers of using accelerants.


Unaccredited Burns and Plastics Registrar at Royal North Shore Hospital.

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