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Wednesday, October 8th, 2008 | ISSN 1556-5696

eSkeptic: the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society

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A Skeptic in Congress?

With less than thirty days left until (U.S.) Election Day 2008, Skepticality checks in with noted skeptic Lt. Colonel Hal Bidlack (U.S. Air Force, Retired) — the Democratic Party’s 5th Congressional District candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Swoopy talks with Hal about the challenging and expensive process of seeking public office in the United States, and how the recent upset of financial markets is shaping this election season. Hal also explains how his study of the U.S. Constitution and experience as the nation’s premier Alexander Hamilton scholar lends valuable insight even in 2008.

Lt. Colonel Hal Bidlack

In this week’s eSkeptic, Skeptic magazine’s very own Skepdoc, Harriet Hall M.D., punctures the acupuncture myth and tells you why “almost everything you’ve heard about acupuncture is wrong.”


person with push-pins randomly piercing the skin of his hand

Puncturing the Acupuncture Myth

by Harriet Hall, M.D.

By definition, “alternative” medicine consists of treatments that have not been scientifically proven and that have not been accepted into mainstream medicine. The question I keep hearing is, “But what about acupuncture? It’s been proven to work, it’s supported by lots of good research, more and more doctors are using it, and insurance companies even pay for it.” It’s time the acupuncture myth was punctured — preferably with an acupuncture needle. Almost everything you’ve heard about acupuncture is wrong.

To start with, this ancient Chinese treatment is not so ancient and may not even be Chinese! From studying the earliest documents, Chinese scholar Paul Unschuld suspects the idea may have originated with the Greek Hippocrates of Cos and later spread to China. It’s definitely not 3000 years old. The earliest Chinese medical texts, from the 3rd century BCE, do not mention it. The earliest reference to “needling” is from 90 BCE, but it refers to bloodletting and lancing abscesses with large needles or lancets. There is nothing in those documents to suggest anything like today’s acupuncture. We have the archaeological evidence of needles from that era — they are large; the technology for manufacturing thin steel needles appropriate for acupuncture didn’t exist until about 400 years ago.

The earliest accounts of Chinese medicine reached the West in the 13th century: they didn’t mention acupuncture at all. The first Westerner to write about acupuncture, Wilhelm ten Rhijn, in 1680, didn’t describe acupuncture as we know it today: he didn’t mention specific points or “qi;” he spoke of large gold needles that were implanted deep into the skull or “womb” and left in place for 30 respirations.

Acupuncture was tried off and on in Europe after that. It was first tried in America in 1826 as a possible means of resuscitating drowning victims. They couldn’t get it to work and “gave up in disgust.” I imagine sticking needles in soggy dead bodies was pretty disgusting.

Through the early 20th century, no Western account of acupuncture referred to acupuncture points: needles were simply inserted near the point of pain. Qi was originally vapor arising from food, and meridians were channels or vessels. A Frenchman, Georges Soulie de Morant, was the first to use the term “meridian” and to equate qi with energy — in 1939. Auricular (ear) acupuncture was invented by a Frenchman in 1957.

The Chinese government tried to ban acupuncture several times, between 1822 and World War II during the time of the Chinese Nationalist government. Mao revived it in the “barefoot doctor” campaign in the 1960s as a cheap way of providing care to the masses; he did not use it himself because he did not believe it worked. It was Mao’s government that coined the term “traditional Chinese medicine” or TCM.

In 1972 James Reston accompanied Nixon to China and returned to tell about his appendectomy. It was widely believed that his appendix was removed under acupuncture anesthesia. In reality, acupuncture was used only as an adjunct for pain relief the day after surgery, and the relief was probably coincident with the expected return of normal bowel motility. A widely circulated picture of a patient allegedly undergoing open heart surgery with acupuncture anesthesia was shown to be bogus. If acupuncture is used in surgery today, it is used along with conventional anesthesia and/or pre-operative medication, and it is selected only for patients who believe in it and are likely to have a placebo response.

As acupuncture increased in popularity in the West, it declined in the East. In 1995, visiting American physicians were told only 15–20% of Chinese chose TCM, and it was usually used along with Western treatments after diagnosis by a Western-trained physician. Apparently some patients choose TCM because it is all they can afford: despite being a Communist country, China does not have universal health coverage.

There were originally 360 acupuncture points (loosely based on the number of days in a year rather than on anatomy). Currently more than 2000 acupuncture points have been “discovered”, leading one wag to comment that there was no skin left that was not an acupuncture point. There were either 9, 10, or 11 meridians — take your pick. Any number is as good as another, because no research has ever been able to document the existence of acupuncture points or meridians or qi.

Does acupuncture work? Which type of acupuncture? And what do you mean by “work”? There are various different Chinese systems, plus Japanese, Thai, Korean and Indian modalities, most of which have been invented over the last few decades: whole body or limited to the scalp, hand, ear, foot, or cheek and chin; deep or superficial; with electrified needles; with dermal pad electrodes and no skin penetration.

Acupuncture works in the same manner that placebos work. It has been shown to “work” to relieve pain, nausea, and other subjective symptoms, but it has never been shown to alter the natural history or course of any disease. Today it’s mostly used for pain, but early Chinese acupuncturists maintained that it was not for the treatment of manifest disease, that it was so subtle that it should only be employed at the very beginning of a disease process, and that it was only likely to work if the patient believed it would work. Now there’s a bit of ancient wisdom!

Studies have shown that acupuncture releases natural opioid pain relievers in the brain: endorphins. Veterinarians have pointed out that loading a horse into a trailer or throwing a stick for a dog also releases endorphins. Probably hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer would release endorphins too, and it would take your mind off your headache.

Psychologists can list plenty of other things that could explain the apparent response to acupuncture. Diverting attention from original symptoms to the sensation of needling, expectation, suggestion, mutual consensus and compliance demand, causality error, classic conditioning, reciprocal conditioning, operant conditioning, operator conditioning, reinforcement, group consensus, economic and emotional investment, social and political disaffection, social rewards for believing, variable course of disease, regression to the mean — there are many ways human psychology can fool us into thinking ineffective treatments are effective. Then there’s the fact that all placebos are not equal — an elaborate system involving lying down, relaxing, and spending time with a caring authority can be expected to produce a much greater placebo effect than simply taking a sugar pill.

There are plenty of studies showing that acupuncture works for subjective symptoms like pain and nausea. But there are several things that throw serious doubt on their findings. The results are inconsistent, with some studies finding an effect and others not. The higher quality studies are less likely to find an effect. Most of the studies are done by believers in acupuncture. Many subjects would not volunteer for an acupuncture trial unless they had a bias towards believing it might work. The acupuncture studies coming from China and other oriental countries are all positive — but then nearly everything coming out of China is positive. It’s not culturally acceptable to publish negative results because researchers would lose face and their jobs.

The biggest problem with acupuncture studies is finding an adequate placebo control. You’re sticking needles in people. People notice that. Double blinding is impossible: you might be able to fool patients into thinking you’ve used a needle when you haven’t, but there’s no way to blind the person doing the needling. Two kinds of controls have been used: comparing acupuncture points to non-points, and using an ingenious needle in a sheath that appears to have penetrated the skin when it hasn’t.

In George Ulett’s research, he found that applying an electrical current to the skin of the wrist — a kind of TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) treatment — worked just as well as inserting needles, and one point on the wrist worked for symptoms anywhere in the body.

Guess what? It doesn’t matter where you put the needle. It doesn’t matter whether you use a needle at all. In the best controlled studies, only one thing mattered: whether the patients believed they were getting acupuncture. If they believed they got the real thing, they got better pain relief — whether they actually got acupuncture or not! If they got acupuncture but believed they didn’t, it didn’t work. If they didn’t get it but believed they did, it did work.

Acupuncturists have used ingenious rationalizations to try to salvage failed studies. In a recent study using sham acupuncture as a control, both the sham placebo acupuncture and the true acupuncture worked equally well; both were better than no treatment. The obvious conclusion was that acupuncture was no better than a placebo. Instead, the researchers insisted that real acupuncture worked and that placebo acupuncture worked too! Another acupuncture researcher recently decided not to use a placebo control in his research because any stimulation of the skin might be effective — which seems to me to pretty much destroy the whole rationale for acupuncture, but he didn’t seem to notice that. If that were true, we could just caress or massage our patients instead of inserting needles and postulating imaginary qi and meridians.

Considering the inconsistent research results, the implausibility of qi and meridians, and the many questions that remain, it’s reasonable to conclude that acupuncture is nothing more than a recipe for an elaborate placebo seasoned with a soupçon of counter-irritant. You can play human pincushion if you want, and you might get a good placebo response, but there’s no evidence you’ll get anything more.

Note: Part of this article was adapted from a PowerPoint presentation prepared by the late Dr. Robert Imrie. It’s well worth a visit; it includes great pictures of camelpuncture, goatpuncture, and chickenpuncture.

41 Comments »

41 Comments

  1. Franklin McDuffie says:

    I’m deeply disappointed to find this in eSkeptic. Reading Dr Hall’s article is like touring a Creationist theme park: cherry-picked facts and outright falsehoods to support pre-ordained conclusions.

    Isn’t that the very kind of shoddy thinking what we want to prevent?

    Her historical data does not stand up to even the most cursory investigation, the conclusions defy logic, and the comments on research are simply false.

    Somewhere along the way, you slipped into ideology where the ends (debunking) justify the means (falsifying the data). This is worse than a priest molesting an altar-boy, we expected better of you.

    The debate over Alternative medicine desperately needs a credible voice for the reasoned, fact-based point of view. How do you plan to recover your journalistic integrity and provide that voice?

    You have a plan, I hope? And realize that your credibility needs to be recovered?

    • Nancy says:

      Franklin, Questioning the efficacy of acupuncture and finding facts that support its lack of real value are WORSE than priests molesting boys????

      • John says:

        This is laughable at best. The skeptism and then there is cynicism. My grandmother was a lifelong “skeptic”. From UFOs to JFK. But after 30+ years of constant pain. Having tried everything under the sun in the “medical world”. She decided to try acupunture. 3 visits-problem solved. She was even told that with her advanced age that it would most likely not help her much. The Acupunturist was wrong. And so was my grandmother. She was one of the most negative people on the planet. So, the placebo effect was off the table. She was refered by my stepmother (korean)to see an old couple from korea. That only treated koreans. But, between my stepmother and my martial arts instructor, she was permitted. It worked, period.

  2. Tim says:

    ^ Acupuncturist found.

  3. C Hallstrom says:

    Franklin, if I had not read the above article I would have thought you were complaining about a pro acupuncture article. Speaking of shoddy thinking, what false data and if it can’t stand up to even cursory investigation where’s the evidence from your cursory investigation? Did you just look in your heart for the truth and it made manifest? And what on earth are you doing referencing molestation…are you sick in the head? I think Tim is right.

  4. Sian says:

    There’s being sceptical and being downright dishonest. The above article falls squarely into the second category.

    Setting aside the wholly inaccurate historical perspective and the clumsy attempts to insinuate that acupuncture is a relatively recent, ineffective con trick, proof positive that acupuncture works effectively can be found in a comprehensive body of research, including that conducted by WHO and readily available, inter alia, on the World Health Organisation website.

    The UK Government’s own National Institute for Clinical Excellence has also conducted its own stringent multi-year clinical trials – as a direct result of these, acupuncture is now an approved and recommended treatment for certain medical conditions, including pain management.

    It is worth noting that no treatment – drug, complementary or any other – may be used by British doctors unless approved by NICE, and the approval processes are extremely stringent.

  5. C Hallstrom says:

    Doesn’t the UK government also fund homeopathy? Need I say anymore about bad British science? Beyond that I must say that I just love the defense of the government says it’s true so hence it must be true. As an American who just lived though 8 years of that kind of idiocy I think I’ve had enough. Could it be possible that the multi-billion dollar business of “alternative medicine” might have some influence with government?
    Sian, when you call someone a liar it is customary to prove the allegation. Otherwise it is just slander.You can’t just ‘set aside’ facts you don’t like and simply using words like “stringent” doesn’t make your evidence any better. A few meta-analysis reports do not constitute good evidence.

  6. Emma from the Shore says:

    I agree with Franklin – I do expect to see the evidence and not just a thrashing without evidence. I was very disappointed in this article and not what I expect from Skeptic. I don’t always agree but I don’t expect to find the same hocus pocus on skeptic’s side – all ideology and no science all the time!

  7. marcelo says:

    How acupuncture works in animal experiments? Placebo? Let´s work!

  8. Patterson says:

    A great blog here… Secondly What do you think will happen if Aviva or other biggies go Bankrupt?

  9. Henry Teng says:

    This article provide ample evidences. So far it is the woo fanboys that cannot prove that acupunture is either ancient, or works.

    And so what if it is ancient anyway? I don’t give a **** about anything “cultural”, whether it is 5 years old or 5000 years old. If it cannot stand the check of science, that it is BS. Ancient wisdom my ass.

  10. Henry Teng says:

    C Hallstrom says:
    June 16, 2009 at 11:00 am
    As an American who just lived though 8 years of that kind of idiocy I think I’ve had enough.

    Amen.

    Actually, even NCCAM admits that there has been ZERO evidence that acupunture, or ANY alternative medicine has effect beyond placebo. The entire American scientific community is basically against this alternative medicine BS, but too bad that we have idiots like Tom Harkin and Don Burtan in Houses that pretend to be the “voice of people” and stand on the way of science and truth.

    The effect of acupuncture, homeopathy and whatever CAM only exists in

    –Ancient fairy tales
    –Anecdotal evidences.

    Also a bad news for acupunture fanboys: China did NOT have the technology to make steel needles to do acupuncture until 16th century. (steel needles are MUCH MORE difficult to be made compare to steel blades or tools since it requires some advanced wire technology) The needles Chinese used before 16th century were made of bones; there were golden and silver needles for ceremonies, all of them were too soft to be used to pierce through skin. That’s why Chinese had to use large needles or even blades for acupuncture, and that’s more like the BLOODLETTING of Europe rather than acupunture today.

    Of course, what idiots can do is to repeat fairy tales written by people rotten in coffins. They will never take archeological evidences seriously.

    • kjung says:

      You may think you’re supporting the article above but you’re actually pushing people away from the article.
      Our society needs healthy skepticism, not your attitude of bullying that has been used by those people you call ‘idiot’ yourself.
      For your own sake, stop sounding like a teenager ‘wanna be’ fighter who is only brave on the Internet.

  11. Henry Teng says:

    http://drspinello.com/altmed/acuvet/acuvet_files/frame.htm

    Most of this article came from here.

    Scientific skeptics rarely spoke without evidence. It has always been creationists, woo fanboys, astrologers that have nothing but BS.

    • Double T says:

      Agreed! Getting off topic, I keep having arguments about aspartame myths. Not one iota of truth in the ills of the synthetic sweetener since started on a website years ago by a fraudulent doctor and a doctor (actually a real one) that has been disassociated with the medical association for erroneous surveys. I drink with pleasure diet pop in front of my holistic friends and send them legitimate links to the American Cancer society, Kidney Foundation etc. stating aspartame proven to be safe.

  12. iwinc says:

    Effective or not,the writer of this article comes across as incredibly full of herself.There was nothing balanced at all in her writing only ridicule and smugness.
    If acupuncture doesnt work then it doesnt work.that though doesnt make attitudes like this any more right.two wrongs dont make a right and smug attitudes like this cause a lot more damage then any ineffective acupuncture ever did.

    • John says:

      This article was not meant to be balanced, it’s a skeptics point of view. As a scientist(retired), I always want the data, regardless of which side of an argument one is on. Skepticism and questioning is healthy. As Carl Sagan said in Cosmos, it’s the path in finding the truth (as much as science can determine).

      I don’ know, but perhaps we’re talking about two different things? Culture and science? …at least in a modern context.

      For me, it’s all about finding what the scientifically gathered data shows. I for one am aware of my bias and any result needs to be replicated before it can be accepted in the science community (mostly).

  13. Jeremy says:

    I have to agree with Franklin and the others. This article should never have made it into Skeptic. While I respect Dr. Hall, and certainly agree she has written many excellent critiques, this is not one of them. It’s extremely disappointing to see such bias and cojecture here. Through all the research I’ve done on acupuncture, I’m still undecided about its efficacy, but there is no call to selectively include “evidence” that appears to prove your point. If anyone here would like to read an interesting view of the actual origins of acupuncture, how it was turned into something mystical by Europeans, and how it complements findings of modern science, there is a blog series worth a read here: http://thehealthyskeptic.org/chinese-medicine-demystified-part-i-a-case-of-mistaken-identity

    Being skeptical should not come at the cost of being cynical. Clinical studies with excellent methodologies have found positive evidence for acupuncture in treating some specific conditions (like neck pain, search PubMED). Moreover, the bad reputation Acupuncture has with “skeptics” seems to stem primarily from the hocus-pocus that got associated with it along the way. I’m not saying there aren’t problems, but as skeptics we all need to keep an open mind.

    • Double T says:

      You should’ve not base your argument on so called facts posted in the linked blog. The arguments in the blog seems to be made by a believer of acupuncture disguised as but not a true skeptic. Also no conclusive studies on acupuncture on PubMed. Sorry neck pain doesn’t count.

  14. Complex Analysis says:

    A comment from above link “My placebo works better than your placebo”

    Whether it works or not. Indeed modern medicine works on the another dimension of placebo. A dis-ease experienced is the uncomfortableness (pain. More than curing the underlying threat, mostly the idea is analgesic a.k.a pain killer…

  15. Jon says:

    Nancy, I am a skeptic and an athiest, yet I do agree with the general criticisms of your article. It fails to reference any of the major studies and is full of sweeping statements coloured by an agenda. What is needed is neutral scientific debate, with all points backed up by references. I am very disappointed to read an article here that is so lacking in method and references. Though I am almost certain that acupuncture, ‘Qi’ energy and meridians are false medicines / inventions, we really do need fuller studies and a scientific approach to help clarify these issues.

  16. Jerry says:

    The whole problem I have so-called studies about “acupuncture”, either to prove it works or to disprove it is that most of these studies are purely designed, and the researchers didn’t really what to measure or how to measure anything but “subjectively” — this probably can be said about some Western medicine research studies also.

    It’s like “scientists” in the 18th century using the techniques available now then to test whether people can actually communicate remotely via “radio waves” — a concept that didn’t exist at the time.

    Just today’s science can’t tell anything us the effect of acupuncture doesn’t mean that it’s all placebo, or woo, just like “scientists” in the 18th century couldn’t measure the effect of radio waves doesn’t mean people can’t communicate wirelessly.

    If you guys are truly scientists, well, you need to admit that the honest answer about acupuncture is that we still don’t know, but it works for some people at least for some diseases (well, this can be said about a lot of Western medicine pills), whether through “placebo” or not.

    P.S.
    It’s funny that in medicine research, often some unknown effect is attributed to the “placebo” effect. But does one need to ask why the “placebo” effect exists in the first place? Doesn’t it mean that somehow the human brain sometimes functions as a “healing” machine on its own? So there must be a mind-body connection that the scientists today still largely do not understand. Well, the human body and mind are very, very complex machines — it probably defies the “conventional” (and prevailing) Western scientific methods, namely, analytical methods by breaking big things into small parts and then focusing only on a tiny part (e.g., a chemical compound, or a single gene).

    The emergence of new science — “complexity theory”, the study of complex adaptive systems — still has a long, long way to go!!!

  17. LMS says:

    Why do drugs companies style their drugs like the effects of chinese herbal medicine. For instance, red rice yeast extract works in the same exact fashion as the statin drugs.The herb was there first. The drug companies are designing a drug to mimic the effects of hyange root which is great for RA. It lowers the the TH-17 on the immune system. Those 1 billion chinese with life expectancy longer than us “United States double blind smart people” are so silly they don’t know what they are doing. Harriet, I think somehow or another you projecting your own displeasure of maybe your own health or lack of the ability to help your own patients. Please get help, better yet, get the placebo effect and get well.

  18. LB says:

    I have received acupuncture a few times, and I know it works. Why do I need science or some person who took out a bunch of student loans to pay for his medical school to tell me what’s going to work for me. If it’s placebo then great! I’ll take it, but if that’s the case then why doesn’t chemotherapy produce the same placebo effects? It usually just kills the patient in a few months. Doctors and scientists are just upset because people are sick of spending tons of money to stay sick. Of course people are going alternative routes. And why not? We are individuals with free will to make our own choices, why stand for being herded like sheep from the medical/science groups. Any way science never proves anything other than the fact that science has still so much to learn. Science can’t even prove science. And we might as well start calling it the unhealth care industry, because they can’t get paid if your healthy. Oh and by the the way qi or prana can’t be proven by science because science is not advanced enough and hasn’t been around long enough to provide evidence. The answer is soooo simple it just takes the right side of your brain to understand it not data And a lab coat. Hey you want to prove something prove that it is real. Being a skeptic is kids lame any way because anyone can do it, watch: I’m skeptic you are real because I have never met you. Or I’m skeptic that the skeptics are really skeptical, or am I a skeptic in disguise? You see how easy it is? Or can you? You may need to conduct research to see how you really feel. What a waste!

  19. A Demo says:

    It is a characteristic of skeptics to resort to insult and bullying with anybody that disagree with them; they cannot be taken seriously when they counter any opposing argument with the leitmotiv: you disagree, you are an idiot
    No one can take seriously a group of individual so blatantly dogmatic, bordering on the stalinist
    Can you imagine having this sort of people in governement

    A Demo

    • Piet says:

      Answer not to Demo but to all participants.
      Hi My name is piet from South Africa, How can anyone comment on acupuncture if they don’t know the scientific principles behind acupuncture. If they knew many advances in the medical field can be obtained. In his book on alternative medicines Dr. Stanway from the U K states in his book “How does it work” He says it is fair to say that nobody knows not even in the east but work it certainly does.
      I can prove it scientifically. Dr. Stanway further states that 80% of people find relief of acupuncture, they don’t know why it does not work for the other 20%. I use another form of acupuncture and to my mind based on the same principles. I have good success and can substantiate all my findings and facts scientifically. My method does not need the puncture of the skin. Successes on Lymphodema, asthma and all the other claims made by acupuncturist in fact all stress related diseases can be minimised with my method. The other 20% can also be helped but not with accupuncture. So please people don’t argue over facts that are not known to you.

      Thanks

      Piet

  20. linda cruz says:

    Harriet Hall is not just a skeptic she is a biased medical doctor who in an attempt to glorify her past profession will insult any other form of medicine. I recently read an article in which she pretended that back pain and a ruptured disc are synonymous! She just does not sound like a person who has a medical degree or any background in science. Her twisted opinion is not worthy of being published in any respectable journal or website.

    • Nats says:

      “Harriet Hall is not just a skeptic she is a biased medical doctor…” and “I recently read an article…” are the only true statements in your post and I question the latter.

      There is only one “form” of medicine. That’s medicine. Any of the woo based, failed attempts at medicine are NOT medicine. (On Alt Med – “If it were shown to be truly effective, it would be part of regular medicine.” – Dr. H. Hall)

      So for the gazillionth time, just once, show the scientific and medical communities how acupuncture works… SCIENTIFICALLY! (Note: Anecdotal based submissions are no longer being accepted ;)

  21. Angela Squires says:

    I have heard Harriet Hall speak live in Vancouver, BC where she presented as a calm, rational person telling the truth about medicine and CAM, complementary alternative medicine. As a British trained teacher I am frankly horrified at the financial support given by the NHS (the UK universal medicare) to unproven and even dangerous, by dint of ineffective, homeopathic and CAM treatments. Some of this support is because of EU rules that are bizarre and one of the reasons for the financial woes of so many EU countries. The newish Conservative Government is changing NHS funding to a science based regime, closing homeopathic hospitals for example.

    While recovering from cancer I took a course in Therapeutic Touch (TT), a CAM technique that has been accepted by the BC Cancer Agency mainly because of the work of UK born, Liz Smith, CCH (Clinical Hypnotist) and BSW. Later I took Level 2 TT and was a member of the BCTT Network. We were taught to never make claims to cure or treat disease, rather to offer TT as a stress reliever, comforter, relaxation technique; in fact somebody said that maybe the best result of TT was that it got a person to shut up for 30 minutes! I can attest to that personally :-)

    Acupuncture is an elaborate placebo; as such for those who believe it works, sure enough it works! There has been no sufficient scientific proof to demonstrate its efficacy. Ultimately to charge money for acupuncture without stating that it is an elaborate placebo is simply fraud. TT makes no unproven claims. at least in Canada, and as an aid to relaxation, makes sense. Whereas sticking pins in a person makes no sense whatsoever; I have a dead patch on my leg from some hippie fool sticking a ‘needle’ in there to relieve my broken leg pain, it didn’t.

  22. Rory says:

    I cannot believe that people still fall for these alternative health con artists.

    Of course Acupuncture is a pile of ****.

    There is ZERO evidence of it ever having cured anything ever.

  23. Michael Ellis says:

    This article is not science, this is barracking for a team.

  24. Roger says:

    En mas de 15 años ue llevo ejerciendo como medico he practicado la acupuntura infinidad de veces en muchos pacientes tanto credulos como exepticos y el resultado siempre ha sido el mismo el agradecimiento por el alivio o mejoria de sus padecimiento y en muchos la cura; y creo que mas que yo deberian ser todos aquellos que han sentido el alivio o cura los que deberian responderle al Dr.Hall como se hace llamar si es que realmente es doctor por que da mucho que desear la incoherencia e inconsistencia de su descabellado articulo que no vale la pena tomar en cuenta por la pobreza que muestra en el mismo.

  25. Randi W says:

    For someone invested in science-based medicine (SBM), Dr. Hall provides little to no proven evidence for her assertions about acupuncture’s efficacy, or lack thereof. To begin with, her mention of Paul Unschuld is laughable, given that he’s a noted scholar of Chinese history and medical theory. Asserting that Acupuncture may have origins other than Chinese culture does not in any way detract from it’s effectiveness. Our own Western medical theory has origins in ancient Greek culture. Hello! The Hippocratic oath! If Dr. Hall were to complain that acupuncture shouldn’t be lauded as effective just because people claim that it’s a medical practice thousands of years old, perhaps it would be something worth a listen. But Hall doesn’t simply say that the assertion of being old is not reason enough for proven effectiveness. She attempts to discredit acupuncture by saying the foundation of Chinese history isn’t concrete enough. Lucky for many of us, acupuncture has proven empirically effective regardless of who is truly responsible for the invention, propagation, and history of acupuncture.

    Dr. Hall goes on to refute the well-known appendectomy of James Reston while undergoing acupuncture for pain relief. While I personally can’t attest to having read any published accounts of Reston’s treatment, I don’t believe it’s evidential enough for Hall to lay claim that supposed treatment was bogus without evidence. If Hall is going to argue a lack of SBM for acupuncture, it would seem she would provide evidence for her publications! Even if it is ONLY on the internet. Personally, I would like to know what studies Hall is attempting to discredit when she ‘cites’ acupuncture “working” for pain, nausea and other “subjective symptoms.” Also, she then goes on to say that there are “plenty of studies that acupuncture works for subjective symptoms like pain and nausea.” I challenge her to find studies that have little inconsistency and are done by non-believers of Western medical issues and Western pharmacology. Additionally, not all acupuncture studies are conducted China. A good many acupuncture researchers conduct research in countries besides China, where Dr. Hall claims it is “culturally acceptable to publish negative results because researchers would lose face and their jobs.” Perhaps Dr. Hall has done her own limited investigation regarding acupuncture and not taken an unbiased approach, carefully reviewing a multitude of studies. In all research done, no matter the subject, the hypothesis can only disprove a null hypothesis, not prove anything beyond showing statistical significance. To claim otherwise is negligent, in my opinion. This is precisely why it’s important to keep investigating and researching acupuncture, as people empirically benefit from it!

    As pain and other subjective symptons have been called out by Hall, an article worth mentioning is Manheimer’s “Meta-Analysis: Acupuncture for Low Back Pain.” Manheimer reviews many studies assessing acupuncture’s effectiveness for low back pain and determines it’s efficacy. He does, objectively, state that acupuncture is no more effective than other therapies approached. This however does not disprove possible effects of acupuncture, which is more cost effective and less invasive than traditional Western medicine.

  26. daddy says:

    So, placebo effect….
    It makes me think about the acupuncture being used in veterinary with excellent results…just check veterinary publications about acupuncture…

    So the question is, is it possible the placebo effect on animals?

    • ZepOz says:

      Well, clearly, the horse or dog or sheep or budgie will tell their owner very clearly of any effect the acupuncture (or indeed any medical procedure) is having on them. After all, all animal owners and vets can speak fluent horse, or dog, or sheep, or budgie…

      Yes, that was sarcastic. The reality is the wellness or otherwise of any farm or pet animal is almost always judged second-hand by their concerned owner. Who, when treatment is given, allow themselves to be gulled into seeing improvements (or regression) regardless of obvious facts. It is placebo effect by proxy. When the animal is actually tested dispassionately and scientifically, the truth is often much different to what the owner hoped and believed it was.

      Incidentally, the same effect happens with mothers and “wellness practitioners” who treat babies with alternative quackery. The baby is still sick but the mother feels better about it.

  27. Ben says:

    Just want to add an article from the NY Times that documents a study from NIH. Looks pretty legit and scientific to me. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/acupuncture-provides-true-pain-relief-in-study/

  28. Al says:

    the people supporting acupuncture on here are dupes. acupuncture is utter bs.

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