Posts Tagged ‘sham acupuncture vs real acupuncture’

I Love Mayo! (the Clinic, not the Condiment) Mayo Loves Acupuncture!

April 5th, 2010 1 comment

Why can’t more western doctors and skeptics adapt the attitude of the Mayo Clinic?

Earlier I had blogged about how a physician from the Mayo Clinic endorses acupuncture for low back pain.  Now I had chanced upon their website primer on acupuncture under the heading “Tests and Procedures”

Here are some notable exerpts:

Under “Definition”

Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles in your skin at strategic points on your body. Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago, but over the past three decades its popularity has grown significantly within the United States.

Traditional Chinese theory explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.

In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to boost the activity of your body’s natural painkillers and increase blood flow.

Nice to see that the website presents both theories with neither preference nor prejudice.

Now, under “Why It’s Done”, and this is a beaut.

Scientists don’t fully understand how or why acupuncture affects the amount of pain you feel. Several studies have found that acupuncture has little or no effect beyond that of the sham treatment used in some study participants — the control group — for comparison. The lack of firm results can be explained, in part, by the difficulty of devising a realistic but inactive stand-in for acupuncture. (emphasis mine)

Rob and stunt double I Love Mayo! (the Clinic, not the Condiment)  Mayo Loves Acupuncture!

A Good Stand-In is hard to find.

Difficulty in devising a realistic but inactive stand-in… isn’t that what I’ve been trying to point out for a long time?  How come THEY get it and some can’t? (or won’t?) (see

Now do we remember this line? ( Here’s what Mayo has to say:

The risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner. Possible side effects and complications include:

  • Soreness, bleeding or bruising at the needle sites
  • Internal organ injury, particularly to the lungs, if the needles are pushed in too deeply
  • Infectious disease, such as hepatitis, contracted from reused needles

Again, balanced and fair and most of all, TRUTHFUL.

The rest of the site talks about who is eligible and who is not, how to prepare, what to expect, etc.  And it ends with a balanced note:

The effects of acupuncture are sometimes difficult to measure, but many people swear by it as a means to control a variety of painful conditions.

Several studies, however, show that simulated acupuncture appears to work just as well as real acupuncture. There also is evidence that acupuncture works best in people who expect it to work.

Since acupuncture has few side effects, it may be worth a try if you’re having trouble controlling pain with more-conventional methods.

I post this knowing skeptics will come in and say “see? placebo!” Yet I still do so because I am interested in the truth.  And the truth is any treatment will work better in people who expect it to work.  But the fact that it works in patients who also don’t expect it to work says something.

And yes, darned well worth a try.

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