Acupuncture: sham healthcare
While acupuncture is widely accepted as a viable method of healthcare, there are still serious questions as to whether it has any effect at all. In a study completed on 302 random subjects at the Department of Internal Medicine II, Technische Universitat Munchen, Munich, Germany, where acupuncture was tested against random puncturing of the subjects using needles without using any technique, no difference in the outcome was found. Practitioners of acupuncture claim that this field of healthcare works by interrupting the flow of a force called “chi”using needles. As “chi” has never been observed or measured and no evidence has ever been produced to prove its existence, the method itself remains in question. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Contrary to the 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 did practice a version of acupuncture but it did not include any mention of “chi” and had nothing in common with the modern practice except its use of needles. The methods we see today were invented by French doctors who ressurected the Chinese tradition and added their own techniques. A version of this was introduced to England in 1821 by Edward Joukes (a midwife) who administered needles to a woman who was complaining of “pains in her loins.” After a French doctor named Chevalier Sarlandiere claimed successes with acupuncture in a French medical journal, doctors in the U.S. also began to espouse its benefits. Franklin Bache, physician and the great-grand son of Benjamin Franklin and Doctor J. Hunter Ewing discussed the practice in various medical journals in the U.S. in 1826, giving it a positive review. As this method was reputed to have come from “ancient Chinese traditions,” Chinese settlers then began to offer this service for money.
A closer look at the history and the various styles of acupuncture will reveal that it is a relatively new phenomenom and it has no common method. There are Japanese, Thai, Korean and Indian versions, most of which were all invented in the last few decades. Some styles call for the insertion of needles, some use touch and others simply wave their hands over “energy meridions.” Practitioners from all these schools of acupuncture claim clinical efficacy, but none have proven its worth under rigourous scientific examination.
It is also worth noting that acupuncturists mainly claim to treat illnesses that are psychosomatic (impotence), intermittent (headaches, acne) or sicknesses that will always clear up eventually (the common cold). There are also a variety of endorphins and steroids (cortisol) that are released when the skin is punctured that will block some pain for a short duration of time; however, this can be likened to kicking someone in the knee to stop them from feeling their headache.
With no evidence for the existence of “chi,” no common practice to evaluate, little historical evidence of a cultural phenomenon and empirical evidence contradicting its usefulness, acupuncture has a long way to go before it should be allowed into modern medicine. As patients expect to trust the advice of their medical community, discussing acupuncture frankly is a necessity in a field propagated by integrity. Until any scientific evidence shows up on appeal, this jury has come to its conclusion: acupuncture is a sham science.