Valid Medical Technique
Lucrative Hoax?
History of Acupuncture
 Practiced
in China for over 4,000
 Traditional Chinese medical
technique for unblocking chi
 Acupuncture is the insertion of
needles in specific points on the body
 These insertion points are believed to
correspond with 14 main pathways
within the body called meridians
Origins of Acupuncture Philosophy
 Originates
in Taoist tradition (specifically
 Fu His discovered/created idea of yin and
yang by observing a broken line and an
unbroken line
What exactly is Chi?
 Chi
is an energy that, according to ancient
Chinese beliefs, permeates all things
 Chi must be able to flow freely throughout
the body in order for a person to maintain
overall health
 Chi flows along the meridians of the body
Where do yin and yang fit in?
 Acupuncture
needles are inserted in an
attempt to balance the opposing forces of
yin and yang
 Yin and yang are balanced when a person
is healthy and chi is therefore able to flow
 Injury or illness cause yin and yang to
become distressed and unbalanced
 Originally
there were 365 acupuncture
points, but through the years this number
has increased to over 2,000
 Each point is believed to correspond with
a particular illness or injury
What is acupuncture used to treat?
Kidney problems
Chronic pain
Vision problems
Sexual Dysfunction
And many others…
Is there a medical basis to
 Acupuncture
is not based on modern
medical science
 There is no obvious correlation between
the 14 identified meridians and the actual
location of organs and nerves within the
 Some proponents of acupuncture have
attempted to explain its medical function
Possible medical explanations
 Stimulation
of natural painkilling chemicals
such as endorphins
 Needles block the transmission of pain
impulses to the CNS
Research on Acupuncture
 Many
scientific studies on acupuncture are
still in the early stages
 Subjectivity
 One controlled study done by Melzack and
Katz compared electroacupuncture of the
ear to placebo stimulation
 This study found acupuncture to be no
more effective than lightly touching the ear
in relieving chronic pain
More Research
 Three
Dutch epidemiologists analyzed 51
controlled studies of acupuncture in 1991
 Their conclusion: “…the quality of even the
better studies proved to be mediocre…The
efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of
chronic pain remains doubtful.” (Kleijnen,
et al)
Research Continued
study published in 2001 exposed the
inconsistency of the diagnosis and
treatment of acupuncture
 Diagnoses as well as the prescribed
treatments varied widely
 Of 28 points selected, only 4 (14%) were
prescribed by 2 or more acupuncturists
Why use acupuncture if it has been
proven ineffective?
 Many
hospitals and doctors that use
acupuncture use it only as complementary
therapy or “last hope” therapy
 Example: DUMC
Why do people persist in using
 Although
not supported by empirical
evidence, acupuncture is often supported
by anecdotal evidence (which can also
lead to confirmation bias)
 Placebo effect
 Regression fallacy
 Pragmatic fallacy
 Confounding treatments
Why can’t we disprove acupuncture
as a valid healing therapy?
 Acupuncture
theory is flawed at the core
by the fact that it is virtually impossible to
 Chinese beliefs define chi as being
undetectable by the methods of modern
 If it makes people feel better, does it
matter that we can’t explain why?
Lucrative Indeed!
 According
to the American Academy of
Medical Acupuncture, approximately 4,000
physicians in the United States have
received training in acupuncture therapy
 10-15 million Americans spend ~$500
million per year on acupuncture
 1 in 10 Americans have tried acupuncture
But there are risks…
 Bladder
or lung puncture
 Allergic reaction to needles
 Infection from unsterilized needles
 Fainting
 Convulsions
 Nerve Damage
 Putting off treatments that are known to be

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