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Sham Healthcare: The Real History of Acupuncture
Although acupuncture is widely accepted as an effective method of health care, the available evidence shows that it has no effect. An academic study was conducted at the Department of Internal Medicine, Technische Universität München, Germany. Thirty-four healthy volunteers at three acupuncture points LI4 (hégu), LU7 (liéque), and LR3 (táichong); Once by an active laser and once using a passive laser in random order. The only method to track a client’s response to acupuncture is the MGH Acupuncture Sensation Scale (MASS) and this method simply asks the client how they felt from each acupuncture treatment. In this study, treatment with passive lasers elicited the same positive response from 34 participants, even those who had never received acupuncture treatment before in their lives. If a laser that is not turned on produces the same positive response as targeted, laser-corrected pressure at traditionally used acupuncture sites on the body, this method cannot be considered a scientific method of collecting data that can be used to measure. Functionality. Just telling people they’re getting acupuncture is enough to tell them it’s effective.
Acupuncture practitioners claim that this area of health care works by blocking the flow of energy called “qi” using pressure or needles. “Qi” has never been observed or measured, therefore, no truly scientific method has ever been developed to show or even suggest its existence. Belief in the existence of “Qi”, an invisible, non-measurable force, who claim that this is the mechanism by which acupuncture works and that acupuncture is their primary source of income. Any data interpreted using MASS by someone with a financial interest in proving their field in health care work will be biased in favor of the effectiveness of that interest.
Contrary to popular belief that acupuncture as we know it has been around for “thousands of years”, it actually has its roots in 18th century France. The Chinese practiced a version of acupuncture but it had no reference to “Qi” and bore no resemblance to modern practice except for the use of a type of needle. Archaeologists who discovered these needles at ancient Chinese sites reported that the needles were quite large (up to a foot long) and that there were several skulls with holes near the needles, suggesting that humans died in this manner. The modern methods we see today are quite different and were invented by French doctors who resurrected an obscure Chinese tradition of using much smaller needles that would not kill patients. They also added their own techniques, including the explanation of acupuncture’s success as “qi.”
An imitation of the French version was introduced in England in 1821 by Edward Jukes, a male midwife who administered needles using the French method, to a woman who complained of “pain in her loins”. There was no study of her condition after administering the needles. After a French doctor, Chevalier Sarlandier, described a French procedure in a French medical journal claiming success, American doctors also began to endorse its benefits. Franklin Bache, great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin, discussed the practice in various medical journals across America in 1826, giving it a positive review based on articles in French journals. None of these Americans have actually tried the method or tracked its success rate. Since the French version was known to come from “ancient Chinese traditions,” American doctors began to ask Chinese settlers about the details of the procedure. Poor but smart Chinese settlers added French details and then started offering this service for money, as it paid well, did no harm and gained a positive response from clients. This is where modern acupuncture became part of Chinese culture and Chinese names for acupuncture points were adopted.
A closer look at the history and different styles of acupuncture will reveal that it is a relatively new phenomenon and has no common method. There are Japanese, Thai, Korean and Indian versions, most of which were invented in the last few decades. Some styles call for the insertion of needles, some use touch, and others simply move their hands over “energy meridians.” Practitioners of all these schools of acupuncture claim clinical efficacy, but none have proven its value under rigorous scientific testing.
It is also worth noting that acupuncturists mainly claim to treat ailments that are psychological (impotence), intermittent (headaches, acne) or ailments that clear up all the time (the common cold). There are also different types of endorphins and steroids (cortisol) that are released when the skin is pierced, which temporarily block some pain; However, this can be compared to kicking the knee to stop them from experiencing a headache.
With no evidence for the existence of “Qi”, no common practice to evaluate, little historical evidence of a cultural phenomenon, and empirical evidence contradicting its usefulness, acupuncture should not be allowed in modern healthcare. Because patients expect to trust the advice of their medical community, discussing acupuncture openly and honestly is a necessity in a field promoted by integrity. This editorial has been completely honest with its readers, whether they like it or not. Can we be honest with ourselves when presented with documentation that challenges our belief structures? Yes we can.
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