Cupping therapy has recently gained public attention and is widely used in many regions. Some patients are resistant to being treated with cupping therapy, as visually unpleasant marks on the skin may elicit negative reactions. This study aimed to identify the cognitive and emotional components of cupping therapy. Twenty-five healthy volunteers were presented with emotionally evocative visual stimuli representing fear, disgust, happiness, neutral emotion, and cupping, along with control images. Participants evaluated the valence and arousal level of each stimulus. Before the experiment, they completed the Fear of Pain Questionnaire-III. In two-dimensional affective space, emotional arousal increases as hedonic valence ratings become increasingly pleasant or unpleasant. Cupping therapy images were more unpleasant and more arousing than the control images. Cluster analysis showed that the response to cupping therapy images had emotional characteristics similar to those for fear images. Individuals with a greater fear of pain rated cupping therapy images as more unpleasant and more arousing. Psychophysical analysis showed that individuals experienced unpleasant and aroused emotional states in response to the cupping therapy images. Our findings suggest that cupping therapy might be associated with unpleasant-defensive motivation and motivational activation. Determining the emotional components of cupping therapy would help clinicians and researchers to understand the intrinsic effects of cupping therapy.
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