People need to stop – really, really, stop – asking me if I’ve tried acupuncture. If I had a nickel for every person who, etc., etc.
Acupuncture, as well as reiki, reflexology, chakra alignment, and all other forms of “energy” healing, are placebos, nothing more. That is so important, it bears repeating. Acupuncture, as well as reiki, reflexology, chakra alignment, and all other forms of “energy” healing, are placebos. Not a single, repeatable study has ever shown otherwise. This is a review of a slate of reviews of reviews (not a typo) of acupuncture studies, published* in a well-respected pain journal in 2011. It states in the abstract that “numerous systematic reviews have generated little truly convincing evidence that acupuncture is effective in reducing pain,” as well as, “serious adverse effects continue to be reported.” To paraphrase: of the hundreds of scientific studies done on acupuncture, not a single one has shown it to be more effective than placebo, or “sham” acupuncture (random poking with needles, or in some cases, toothpicks). Moreover, some nerve and blood vessel injuries have occurred. As in, not only does acupuncture not work, it may be dangerous.
So when person after person after person asks me, “Have you tried acupuncture?” they are assuming two things. One is that I have lived in a Skinner box my whole life and have never heard of acupuncture. The other, and more important, is that it amounts to suggesting that made-up treatments based on imaginary things and arbitrarily labeled “ancient” or “traditional” will cure my pain where the latest and most robust medical knowledge and therapies have failed. If I’m going to have needles stuck in me (oh wait, I already have) I’d prefer it be done by a medical professional with a firm grasp of actual human anatomy, with the goal of directly influencing that anatomy in order to make me well. You can take your chi and your meridians and shove them up your, um, ear.
If you find yourself about to ask a person suffering from a chronic health problem if they’ve tried acupuncture, take a moment to pause before speaking and make a different choice. I recommend suggesting fairy dust instead. It’s no less helpful, but it would at least be entertaining.
*It’s important to point out here that if you plug the term “acupuncture” in the PubMed search engine, you will get thousands of responses. This might lead one to think that acupuncture has some basis in scientific method. However, if you look at the names of the journals these studies are published in, as well as the sample sizes, the lack of double-blinding, and the questionable statistical analyses applied, you will discover that the peer review system of research is in dire need of an overhaul, and that despite all of this [supposed] science, no study has been able to empirically prove a benefit to acupuncture as opposed to placebo.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I wonder how many of the people who have suggested acupuncture have ever had long term searing pain. For those who do not know who I am, and know about this, I am going to relate my experience. After about 5 years of serious chronic pain, I gave acupuncture a good try … 6 months worth of weekly or bi-weekly sessions. I actually got worse instead of better. At our last session, I was told that he was not able to get my chi up to the level of his 86-year-old patient. That was no surprise to me; I knew it was not working and I now wish I’d stopped after the first couple of sessions. But I was desperate and I felt I needed to complete the entire round of treatments. I have had far too many types of alternative treatments at huge expense over the years. My advice … do your homework. I can usually tell within a short period of time if something is right for me. It’s a gut feeling that I wish I’d had the courage to trust years ago. But long term chronic pain can leave you vulnerable. That is not to say that the practitioners I saw were trying to rip me off; they truly believed that they were helping people. Well, they did not help me…or maybe my body has a fine-tuned placebo detector.