Does acupuncture really work?

Apr 28, 2010 Full story: Taipei Times 20

A new study has found little convincing evidence that the therapy reduces pain during labor, prompting renewed debate about the value of the practice Thursday, Apr 29, 2010, Page 14 Discredited therapies The British Fertility Society said in February there was no evidence that acupuncture could aid fertility A study at Middlesex University, ...

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Mark

Canberra, Australia

#1 Apr 29, 2010
There is this thing called 'prior plausibility'- is what is being state plausible? The traditional reason given for acupunctures mechanism for how it works is 'qi'(chi)- energy flows in the body.

Is this a plausible answer? We know blood flows through the body as we find veins with blood in them. We know nerves send signals around the body as we find nerves & can do impluse tests on them.
Are there any qi channels found in our bodies? No.

As something is actually being done to the body then perhaps it is working through our nerves? This has been tested & is shown to not have any affect. In fact recent controlled tests show that it works no better than placebo (fake treatment).

The more we test alt med with better controlled trials, the more any slightly positive effects intially seen vanish. However as long as people mistake the placebo effect with actual benefit we will have to put up with nonsense like acupuncture & homeopathy being promoted by scam artists.
Nancy

Fletcher, NC

#2 May 24, 2010
There are no physical channels for qi because it is a force. Just like gravity and magnetism, we cannot see it though we can see its effects. Qi is the life force or motive force in the universe that makes everything go. The acupuncture channels are the lines of force that qi takes as it circulates throughout the body.
Mark

Canberra, Australia

#3 May 24, 2010
Nancy wrote:
There are no physical channels for qi because it is a force. Just like gravity and magnetism, we cannot see it though we can see its effects. Qi is the life force or motive force in the universe that makes everything go. The acupuncture channels are the lines of force that qi takes as it circulates throughout the body.
But we can measure gravity & magnetism & see their effects. Humans have measuring energy down to a fine art yet we have never found anything like Qi. How can you measure Qi? Unless we can measure Qi in a quantifable way then it is pure speculation. Even if it does exist, unless we can measure it we still need to find out if it can be manipulated. Maybe it can but not with acupuncture needles? Maybe acupunture has a negative effect on Qi? An acupuncturist shoving needles into person claiming to affect energy flows in his body is pure speculation.

“Asheville Acupuncturist”

Since: Jan 10

Location hidden

#4 May 26, 2010
Gravity and magnetism existed before we had the ability to measure them in a quantifiable way. Perhaps it is the same with qi. Maybe we just haven't designed the right machine/measuring device yet. Qi is not energy in the sense that it is defined by physics so, no, currently there is quantifiable no way to measure it.

You are definitely correct that acupuncture can have a negative effect on qi, just like incorrect medical treatment of other types can worsen or prolong illness, or even cause death. Chinese Medicine is the same as other health care fields in this respect, where some practitioners are more skilled than others. The more skilled a practitioner is, the less likely this is to occur.

According to Chinese Medicine theory, using needles to affect the qi is not pure speculation. There is a very logical, organized theoretical framework to this medicine. It is unfortunate that this theory is not readily translatable in western medicine terms. The Chinese culture is certainly the most foreign to the western mind and their language and philosophy is riddled with concepts for which we cannot really grasp. And qi is one of the most basic ideas of all so we are already starting out at a loss, even at the most basic level. The closest English word probably is life force. And, yes, there is an aliveness to us all, the effects of which can readily be seen.
Mark

Canberra, Australia

#5 May 26, 2010
nhyton wrote:
Gravity and magnetism existed before we had the ability to measure them in a quantifiable way. Perhaps it is the same with qi. Maybe we just haven't designed the right machine/measuring device yet. Qi is not energy in the sense that it is defined by physics so, no, currently there is quantifiable no way to measure it.
You are definitely correct that acupuncture can have a negative effect on qi, just like incorrect medical treatment of other types can worsen or prolong illness, or even cause death. Chinese Medicine is the same as other health care fields in this respect, where some practitioners are more skilled than others. The more skilled a practitioner is, the less likely this is to occur.
According to Chinese Medicine theory, using needles to affect the qi is not pure speculation. There is a very logical, organized theoretical framework to this medicine. It is unfortunate that this theory is not readily translatable in western medicine terms. The Chinese culture is certainly the most foreign to the western mind and their language and philosophy is riddled with concepts for which we cannot really grasp. And qi is one of the most basic ideas of all so we are already starting out at a loss, even at the most basic level. The closest English word probably is life force. And, yes, there is an aliveness to us all, the effects of which can readily be seen.
This doesn't answer the question - how can an acupuncturist know that they are affecting Qi if it cannot be measured?

This article may be of interest to you:

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/...
Mark

Canberra, Australia

#6 May 26, 2010
Further on these thoughts - The average life expectancy of a Chinese male in 1900 was 30yo. The figure is now 75+ & it only significantly increased with the introduction of scientific medicine (a preferable term to western medicine).

“so like uhh! whats the deal?”

Since: May 09

planet earth.

#7 May 27, 2010
Having tried it i can report that it only works in one discernable sense,it causes you to momentarily forget the pain in one area by giving you subtle new ones in another area, fooling your nervous responses,
repeated use is predictable,undersandng it has been mixed with traditional supposition but its not voodoo

“Asheville Acupuncturist”

Since: Jan 10

Location hidden

#9 May 27, 2010
Mark - the way I know it is working is simply because my patients get results. Chinese Medicine is classified as an empiricle science. Because it is not measurable with machines, empircle evidence is the barometer.

Paul - acupuncture works for so many other things besides pain. And at least 95% of the time it doesn't hurt, in fact many people feel nothing at all. I have induced pregnant women who are overdue, cured chronic nausea and migraines, gotten patients off heavy anti-anxiety medications, and helped people quit smoking. This didn't happen simply becuase the pain of the needles was distracting them from some other pain. It really is a very comprehensive medical system, very logical and organized.
linda

Saint Peter, MN

#10 May 27, 2010
I have enjoyed the benefits of acupuncture. treatments helped me avoid surgery for a very painful broken toe. It is helping my carpal tunnel that I have been suffering with, again avoiding questionable surgery. My fibromyalgia is easing. I am totally pain-free when I leave my dear acupuncturist. I have 2 treatments a month and will decrease that to 1 time a month. I expect to be able to cease further treatments in a month. The person I see is an RN and is a certified acupuncturist. Check credentials, as you would do for any health professional.
nhyton wrote:
Mark - the way I know it is working is simply because my patients get results. Chinese Medicine is classified as an empiricle science. Because it is not measurable with machines, empircle evidence is the barometer.
Paul - acupuncture works for so many other things besides pain. And at least 95% of the time it doesn't hurt, in fact many people feel nothing at all. I have induced pregnant women who are overdue, cured chronic nausea and migraines, gotten patients off heavy anti-anxiety medications, and helped people quit smoking. This didn't happen simply becuase the pain of the needles was distracting them from some other pain. It really is a very comprehensive medical system, very logical and organized.
Mark

Canberra, Australia

#11 May 27, 2010
nhyton wrote:
Mark - the way I know it is working is simply because my patients get results. Chinese Medicine is classified as an empiricle science. Because it is not measurable with machines, empircle evidence is the barometer.
Paul - acupuncture works for so many other things besides pain. And at least 95% of the time it doesn't hurt, in fact many people feel nothing at all. I have induced pregnant women who are overdue, cured chronic nausea and migraines, gotten patients off heavy anti-anxiety medications, and helped people quit smoking. This didn't happen simply becuase the pain of the needles was distracting them from some other pain. It really is a very comprehensive medical system, very logical and organized.
Can you be sure it isn't the placebo effect? A trial undertaken last year on back pain divided participants into 4 groups - 1 group recd pain medication only (all groups recd the same pain meds), 1 group was given textbook acupuncture, 1 group was given individualised acupuncture and the last group was given sham acupuncture (toothpicks used to put pressure on the skin).

All 3 acupuncture groups performed better than the meds only group. However the best performing group was the sham acupuncture group.

As usual the newspaper headlines got it wrong by declaring "acupuncture relieves back pain" when the results clearly display that fake acupuncture worked better than real acupuncture. The only conclusion we can take from this is that the placebo effect is at work here.

“Asheville Acupuncturist”

Since: Jan 10

Location hidden

#12 Jun 4, 2010
Placebo works about 50% of the time and I have a success rate of 80% to 90% so, no, I don't think that's it. All fields of medicine are euqally susceptible to the placebo effect anyway. It is possible that any therapy that has a success rate of 50% or less is due to placebo. Chemotherapy, for example, is only 28% effective at reducing the size of tumors in breast cancer. Having a success rate of 50% or less of course does not necessarily indicate that the placebo effect is at work.

It is actually unclear from the study whether all of the participants in the "usual care" group received pain medications. All it says is that, "Participants in the usual care group received no study-related care—just the care, if any, they and their physicians chose (mostly medications, primary care, and physical therapy visits)." This is very vague and definitley open to interpretation. It does sugest, however, that some participants may not have received any standard care at all.

The intent of this study was not to see if acupuncture works by placebo or not but rather was designed to answer three questions. "Is acupuncture more effective than usual medical care alone? Is real acupuncture more effective than simulated (noninsertive) acupuncture? Is individualized acupuncture more effective than standardized acupuncture?" The general conclusion of the study was that acupuncure was more effective overall than standard care and that there was no notable difference between individualized treatements done with acupucture needles, standard treatments done with acupuncture needles, or standard treatments done with toothpicks. "There were no significant pairwise differences among the 3 acupuncture groups: individualized acupuncture was not significantly better than standardized acupuncture and real acupuncture was not significantly better than simulated acupuncture."

The main issue with this study as I see it is the use of toothpicks on the same acupuncture points used for the standard treatments. There are many ways to stimulate acupuncture points and even Licensed Acupuncturists use tools other than needles to do this. Massage therapists do what is called acupressure, which is the manual stimulation of the points. Acupressure is also an important part of tui na, or Chinese medical massage. So, whether you are using acupuncture needles, toothipicks, or your finger to stimulate the points, you are still stimulating the points. A better study would not have used the same points for the standard acupuncture treaments and the non-insertive acupuncture treatments. I generally agree with the following statement made in the "Comment" section of the study.
"The appropriateness of using minimal, superficial, or sham control groups in trials of acupuncture remains controversial.28 In fact, the use of blunt needles that did not penetrate the skin was described 2000 years ago in the classic book on acupuncture needling.29 A study using functional magnetic resonance imaging found that superficial and deep needling of an acupuncture point elicited similar blood oxygen level–dependent responses.30 Another study demonstrated that lightly touching the skin can stimulate mechanoreceptors that induce emotional and hormonal reactions, which in turn alleviate the affective component of pain.31 This could explain why trials evaluating acupuncture for pain have failed to find that real acupuncture is superior to sham or superficial control treatments and raises questions about whether sham treatments truly serve as inactive controls. "

Please read the full text on the website of "Archives of internal Medicine." The link is
http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full...

“Uzi Does It”

Since: Nov 08

UZILAND

#13 Jun 23, 2010
http://acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article...

Acupuncture Today
April, 2009, Vol. 10, Issue 04

Bonghan Channels in Acupuncture
By David Milbradt, LAc

Recently, however, a number of scientific papers have been published that have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of how acupuncture works. A group of Korean researchers have rediscovered threadlike microscopic anatomical structures that correspond with the layout of traditional acupuncture meridians or channels. Acupuncture channels are no longer imaginary lines, but specific anatomical structures that, until now, have not been recognized by current theories of anatomy. These channels have been found inside of blood and lymphatic vessels and they also form networks that overlay internal organs.

The channels are called Bonghan channels after Kim Bonghan, a North Korean who published papers describing them in the 1960s, a decade before acupuncture was introduced to the American public. Although his discoveries were confirmed by the Japanese researchers Fujiwara and Yu in 1967, his work was discounted by other scientists because he never revealed his formula for the staining dye that revealed these structures. Almost 40 years later, Kim's discoveries have been confirmed by a variety of studies with rats, rabbits and pigs. Stereo-microscope photographs and images from transmission electron microscopy in the research papers show assemblies of tubular structures 30 to 100 mm wide (red blood cells are 6-8 mm in diameter).

Apparently these structures have remained undiscovered for so long because they are almost transparent and so thin that they are barely visible with low-magnification surgical microscopes. They are also easily confused with fibrin, which coagulates and obscures these structures when there is bleeding in dissected tissues.
Mark

Canberra, Australia

#14 Jun 23, 2010
Richard_ wrote:
http://acupuncturetoday.com/mp acms/at/article.php?id=31918
Acupuncture Today
April, 2009, Vol. 10, Issue 04
Bonghan Channels in Acupuncture
By David Milbradt, LAc
Just a couple of points. In science the usual process is after making some discovery to then publish in peer reviewed publications. Other scientists then try to repeat the results that were reported. This is an important point as maybe what was reported was the one & only time it will ever work or perhaps the researcher made a mistake or even created a deliberate fraud. Why hasn't any other scientist confirmed Bonghan's results from 40 years ago?

Also this guy is from North Korea - a isolationist country that is technically backwards (eg on the capital has electricity). It is possible that these results were fabricated so the government can justify not providing modern medical treatments just as China did during Mao's reign.

Even if he has found something this does not over-ride the fact that acupunture has not offered any convincing results in properly conducted trials.
Mark

Canberra, Australia

#15 Jun 23, 2010
I just re-read the article and had missed the bit about the Japanese researchers - the first point still applies, why haven't other scientists also found these structures?

As a whole, the scientific community is not against acupuncture, homeopathy, kinesiology, etc - they don't support things which continually fail to provide significant positive results. If these things worked as well as proponents claim then science would be researching it and mainstream doctors would support it.

There is limited funding for research so they can spend that on studying homeopathy which testing shows to be no better than placebo or study a chemical which has positive pre-clinical results. "How long does one keep searching for Unicorns?"

“Uzi Does It”

Since: Nov 08

UZILAND

#16 Jun 24, 2010
Mark wrote:
I just re-read the article and had missed the bit about the Japanese researchers - the first point still applies, why haven't other scientists also found these structures?
Why would the they want to find out something that would put the pharmaceutical companies out of profits?
Mark

Canberra, Australia

#17 Jun 24, 2010
Richard_ wrote:
<quoted text>Why would the they want to find out something that would put the pharmaceutical companies out of profits?
Thats paranoid conspiracy thinking. The majority of scientists & doctors are like you & I - hard working Joes who want the best for their customers. Very few get directly funded by pharma companies unless they do some for work for them. If a company wants something tested then shouldn't they use experts in that field & shouldn't they pay for that work? If a company asked you to test something that you use daily in your work, would you do it for free?

Also your theory fails when you look at the work of Robin Warren and Barry J. Marshall who found a major cause of peptic ulcers as well as a relatively cheap cure. This dramatically reduced the sale of expensive ulcer medications. Were they silenced? No - they received the 2005 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Actually what Warren & Marshall shows is how science works. They had a theory that the bacteria Helicobacter pylori caused ulcers. This came from observations & tests of sufferers. They then tested their theory by Marshall deliberately drinking the bacteria to see if he got ulcers - he did. He cleared them up with cheap antibiotics and also on other test subjects. They had significantly positive results, not wishy washy slightly positive results that acupuncture testing gives.

“Uzi Does It”

Since: Nov 08

UZILAND

#18 Jun 25, 2010
Mark wrote:
<quoted text>
1) Thats paranoid conspiracy thinking.

2) Warren & Marshall...received the 2005 Nobel Prize in Medicine.
1) Not.

2) Not to discredit Warren & Marshall, but after President Brock O'Bama recieved a Nobel Peace prize for upping troop strengths in Afghanistan and not bringing the troops home for Iraq, I'm begining to wonder if those things aren't merely door prizes for the e-lite liberal arts club.
Mark

Canberra, Australia

#19 Jun 25, 2010
Richard_ wrote:
<quoted text>
1) Not.
2) Not to discredit Warren & Marshall, but after President Brock O'Bama recieved a Nobel Peace prize for upping troop strengths in Afghanistan and not bringing the troops home for Iraq, I'm begining to wonder if those things aren't merely door prizes for the e-lite liberal arts club.
Obama's peace prize is irrelevant to your original statement. You questioned whether "big pharma" allowing new medical practices that affect their profits - I gave you evidence that they don't stop such things.

“Uzi Does It”

Since: Nov 08

UZILAND

#20 Jun 25, 2010
Mark wrote:
<quoted text>
Obama's peace prize is irrelevant to your original statement. You questioned whether "big pharma" allowing new medical practices that affect their profits - I gave you evidence that they don't stop such things.
You said that they got a Nobel and I merely reminded you that these Nobel gifts are handed out like door prizes to e-lite liberals. I think Al Gore tried using his stimulate a hotel masseuse. Recent breaking news, I believe.
Mark

Canberra, Australia

#21 Jun 26, 2010
Richard_ wrote:
<quoted text>You said that they got a Nobel and I merely reminded you that these Nobel gifts are handed out like door prizes to e-lite liberals. I think Al Gore tried using his stimulate a hotel masseuse. Recent breaking news, I believe.
Once again irrelevant. You insinuated that pharma suppresses cheap alternatives to sell their specialised products. I demonstrated how expensive anti-ulcer medication which was ineffective was replaced with cheap antibiotics that cured the ulcers (two types are required - both out of patent so any company can make them without paying royalties). There is no sign of "big pharma" http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3587/357423827... suppressing this discovery.

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