Lateral Epicondylitis, aka Tennis Elbow, has traditionally been a difficult problem to treat. It occasionally responds to one modality or the other, (ultrasound, electric muscle stimulation, exercise, heat, ice, etc…) There is no one modality that stands out for helping this problem. The same goes with low level laser therapy, or coherent light therapy.1
Conventional wisdom is that if the above modalities and exercise don’t work that well, the problem usually resolves itself in a few years.
I had tennis elbow, and was disappointed that the laser did not help it. I tried all the above modalities and it just stayed there for 1 1/2 years.
After 1 1/2 years, I was doing some surfing, looking for other answers to this annoying problem. I came across some references to “cupping”, something that probably goes back as far as acupuncture, (a couple thousand years.)
I went to ebay, and bought a complete set for $5 plus $15 shipping from China.
I used it once, and the next day my elbow felt better. I did it a week later, and that is the last time I had to do it.
I bought a Reynolds Handi Vac Vacuum Sealer for the house. It was about $8.oo at WalMart. My wife started complaining about… you guessed it– tennis elbow. She had been holding a baby at her job a lot, and she started developing this problem. The cupping system I had at my office was difficult to use for various reasons, so I tried the Vacuum Sealer. The Vacuum Sealer only has a 1/2 inch effective diameter, so I used it on 4 areas close together for 1 minute each. I only had to do it once, and she hasn’t complained since. I did the same thing for a patient with the cupping system. One treatment made a big difference, and the second treatment was the last.
With traditional cupping, you are supposed to have a dark area where the suction was, from the blood trapped there, (OK, a “sucker bite”, get it?)
I did not see that darkening happen very much in any of the above cases.
How the heck does it work? The only theory that makes any sense is that it “back-flushes” the tissues, clearing out something that has prevented recovery.
You never know…
1Dimitrios I. Stasinopoulos, Mark I. Johnson. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. August 2005, 23(4): 425-430. doi:10.1089/pho.2005.23.425.