Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Scientifically Accurate Labelling of the Acupuncture Meridians and Acupoints

Acupuncturists claim to be able to treat a whole range of ailments by strategically inserting needles into various acupoints along the body’s meridian lines in order to control the flow of an invisible life energy known as ch’i or qi, and thus balance the body’s mystical yin and yang.

Following an in-depth and investigation into alternative therapies, in the bestseller Trick or Treatment, science writer Dr. Simon Singh and, Britain’s first Professor of Complementary Medicine, Prof. Edzard Ernst, summarize this basic principle of acupuncture thus:

“The traditional principles of acupuncture are deeply flawed, as there is no evidence at all to demonstrate the existence of Ch’I or meridians.”

But just because a therapy is scientifically implausible if it nonetheless produces unequivocal positive results then we must still consider it a valuable therapy. However, Singh and Ernst’s go on to conclude:

“By focusing on the increasing number of high-quality research papers, reliable conclusions from systematic reviews make it clear that acupuncture does not work for a whole range of conditions, except as a placebo. Hence, if you see acupuncture being advertised by a clinic, then you can assume that it does not really work, except possibly in the treatment of some types of pain and nausea.”

The above quote is taken from a more detailed conclusion that I would recommend reading in full. But it certainly seems from their investigation into the evidence that jabbing the patient outside of the recognised meridians or acupoints or indeed pretending to jab them with either telescopic sham needles, or simply not inserting the needles far enough, has pretty much the same effect as “proper” acupuncture for all treatments other than possibly certain types of pain and nausea.

Nevertheless, if the theatrical nature of acupuncture induces a measurable placebo effect then some may argue that there is still a benefit to its usage. However, as more and more healthcare practitioners recognise the importance of honesty with their patients we should perhaps consider more ethical methods of conveying acupuncture.

Most acupuncture patients are familiar with the standard acupuncture maps showing the body’s meridians and their various acupoints along those meridians that supposedly have distinct influences on different ailments. Rather than tall stories of ancient pre-scientific notions of an invisible and undetectable life energy why not simply state the most plausible explanations for any perceived benefit. All we actually need to do to achieve this is to simply re-label the meridian lines to describe how they are most likely to work and re-label the acupoints to describe the current unequivocally scientifically proven effect of that particular acupoint.

I’ve even done it for you …



Oh, OK I admit it, it was all just a convoluted way of strategically placing the label "Sweet Fanny Adams" on the anatomical acupuncture chart, but I can never resist a good fanny gag.


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