Bughh, needles. Ever needed to unblock your Qi? The traditional basis for acupuncture is that the undetectable life force Qi gets blocked leading to disease. Inserting needles in the “Meridian” lines/points of the body unblocks the Qi and allows relief. Like other alternative practices acupuncture is most effective against problems that have a significant psychological component, usually pain. Studies on acupuncture effectiveness have had mixed results, partly because it’s hard to introduce accurate placebo measures – people know if they are being stuck with needles. Also studies often use electro-stimulation, which then makes it trans-cutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which is known to reduce pain.

Acupuncture is another of those treatments that is seen to have the backing of thousands of years of use and therefore does not need to prove itself on the scientific stage. This outlook ignores the fact that medical treatments are seldom clear cut and without the rigor that clinical trials introduces, establishing cause and effect is next to impossible for practitioners, let alone your average lay-person. Many of the ailments people suffer from on a daily basis are self limiting, which helps people fall into the rationalisation that because they received acupuncture and then they got better that the two were related.

Acupuncture also has somewhat of a novelty feature to it which can be effective in increasing it’s psychological effectiveness. So sticking needles into your body may make you feel better, but I’d prefer something a little less….eeeewww. Remember, if your acupuncturist thinks Qi causes disease, he may not see the need to be super hygienic with those needles. Happy infections everyone.

Resources:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-09/eecc-adn092607.php

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/329/7476/1216

http://www.quackcast.com/QuackCast/Podcasts/Podcasts.html Episode #8