...just as well as not doing acupuncture! Now that's what I call a medical procedure worth investing large sums of money in and foregoing other clinically proven treatments for. You don't even need to actually do it for it to magically heal you! Hey, I wonder if we can make that work with chemotherapy.

This new study which has the skeptical (and not-so-skeptical) blogosphere abuzz randomly split 638 adults suffering from chronic back pain into four groups. All of these groups were given the usual care for back pain, but one of them also got a specific, personalised regimen of acupuncture, as prescribed by a practised acupuncturist; one group got a standard acupuncture treatment, in keeping with the traditions of Chinese medicine but not tailored to them individually; one group got prodded about with toothpicks as if there was some acupuncture going on, but nothing really happened; and the other avoided being jabbed by anything pointy at all.

The results showed that the first three groups - those who underwent either "real" or "simulated" acupuncture treatments - experienced significant and beneficial effects, compared with the fourth group. However, among those three groups, no one treatment regimen was shown to be any more effective than any other. They all seemed to work, but they all seemed to work equally well.

Read the full article over here, on my skeptical blog, Cubik's Rube.

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Comment by unholyroller on May 19, 2009 at 11:52pm
The 2 practicioners I've seen are both MDs....not into the woo woo stuff at all. In fact, they both admitted to me that they weren't sure how it worked, but people were being helped. They also said that acupuncture does not work for everyone. If it's a placebo affect, what's the harm. Pain gone, life resumed....'sall good. As for the remote acupuncture....great BIG load of hay and grass that's done passed through the male bovine digestive system. I agree....research should be done to determine exactly what is going on. In the meanwhile, I'm just happy to be mobile.
Comment by Cubik's Rube on May 19, 2009 at 3:58am
@unholyroller: Well, my point was really only that the results of this study can be (and have been) easily misinterpreted, and that the effects of acupuncture still seem to go no further than those of a placebo. If it's worked for you, great. The ethics or practicality of using or withholding this kind of treatment - which seems to produce significant placebo results even if any pharmacological or physiological effect is only simulated - isn't something I feel equipped to discuss in much detail. All I know is that the scientific data is pretty much unanimous in implying that the purported foundations of acupuncture - flows of qi, meridians, and all that - don't really exist, and that any beneficial effects it has are entirely brought on by the subject's own mind, as a result of the ritual of going through a medical procedure which feels like it should help.

I can't see anything in what I wrote that ridicules anyone who's been in horrible pain and sought anything that might be able to help them (though, nor do I accept the reasoning that I'm not qualified to comment on any of this until I've experienced such debilitating pain myself). I'm not being facetious or sarcastic when I say that's great if it's worked for you. I'm just addressing some acupuncturists' claims that what they're doing is adjusting people's magical energies, and has a medical effect greater than what can be achieved simply by prodding people with toothpicks. The data suggests that they're wrong.

Also, although there might be no reason it should matter to you, I think doctors and scientists probably should care how it works. It sounds like a helpful thing for them to know, if they're going to be able to treat people with it as effectively as possible in future. That's what this kind of study is for, and I think it's a question worth asking, even if your own experiences have been enough to satisfy you personally.
Comment by unholyroller on May 18, 2009 at 8:53pm
And your point is......? I have herniated disks in my lower back, degenerative disk disease and spondylosis in my neck. Acupuncture makes the pain go away. I don't care how or why the pain goes away...just that it does. My quality of life is much better without the constant pain and/or the mind-numbing pain meds that turned me into a zombie. Your are, of course intitled to be sceptical about anything you please, and I know full well that there is a lot of alternative quackery out there. Being pain and drug free allows me. at nearly 60, to work 12 hr shifts as a registered nurse. I can drive long distances to visit my grandchildren, walk, dance, swing on the swings and slide down the slide. And it dosen't hurt. The needles are fine, very thin, and there is no pain. None. So...again....I don't care how or why it works, I just care that it does. Until you have experienced severe, chronic pain that dominates every aspect of your life, don't ridicule those of us who have chosen another form of treatment.



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