How does acupuncture work?

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Zoe Yip

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How does acupuncture work?
« on: 22/02/2010 10:30:03 »
Zoe Yip asked the Naked Scientists:
   
I love your programme very much! it's awesome!!!!

I was wondering how does the Chinese acupuncture work? Any scientific explanation on it?

Thanks a lot
x

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 22/02/2010 10:30:03 by _system »

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Offline Bored chemist

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How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #1 on: 22/02/2010 19:41:07 »
The first question is does acupuncture work- or at least work any better than the placebo effect?
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Offline stereologist

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How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #2 on: 23/02/2010 02:57:42 »
A while back I read that acupuncture is not as old as claimed. The oldest European mention is from a 1680s text. Europeans had brought back info on Chinese medicine beginning in the 1300s, but there is no mention of acupuncture until this 1680s text. A 2005 study published in JAMA showed that acupuncture and sham acupuncture had about the same success rate for relieving headaches.

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Offline yor_on

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How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #3 on: 10/03/2010 01:18:16 »
There is Swedish research from 2009 on it suggesting that it doesn't seem to matter where you put those needles, around half of the patients treated will experience a pain lessening effect due to the treatment anyway.

They also used a special type of needles not penetrating the skin, but that seems to me to be of lesser importance, as there is a lot of other Chinese treatments using those 'special points' without penetrating the skin, acupressure, moxa, etc.

Still, if it is a 'sham' it works very well :)
As almost fifty percent found a relief in the treatment.
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Offline JP

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How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #4 on: 10/03/2010 04:39:54 »
The last I heard (and I admittedly don't follow it well), there was some evidence that acupuncture did appear to work better than placebo for certain specific types of pain relief (though not as well as pharmaceuticals).  Here's a link to the NIH (a US government agency) about it:

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/acupuncture-for-pain.htm

Although upon reading that again, they seem do be saying that although some studies showed that it appears to work, there isn't enough evidence yet.

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Offline Zoe Yip

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #5 on: 14/06/2015 19:02:51 »
wow that’s a really useful piece of information! thanks JP for the acupuncture website from the NCCIH!
actually i still believe that chinese acupuncture works only because of its psychological effects on patient, rather than its REAL “scientific” physiological effect on pain relieve. although being a chinese myself, i don’t really believe in the traditional chinese medicine at all haha!

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Offline Zoe Yip

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #6 on: 14/06/2015 19:06:10 »
There is Swedish research from 2009 on it suggesting that it doesn't seem to matter where you put those needles, around half of the patients treated will experience a pain lessening effect due to the treatment anyway.

They also used a special type of needles not penetrating the skin, but that seems to me to be of lesser importance, as there is a lot of other Chinese treatments using those 'special points' without penetrating the skin, acupressure, moxa, etc.

Still, if it is a 'sham' it works very well :)
As almost fifty percent found a relief in the treatment.

yes haha! very true! playing around with psychology again!

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Offline yellowcat

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #7 on: 16/02/2017 12:27:53 »
Acupuncture is a form of placebo. For a fair assessment of it efficacy it would need to be tested on something that was measurable, something objective rather than subjective. Someone saying that it made them feel better should not carry any weight.

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #8 on: 18/02/2017 10:24:48 »
I've seen a film of chinese veterinarians setting a cow's broken leg, using acupuncture anesthesia, and there have been some clinical studies in the UK of  the same process in human surgery.

I was recently recommended  by a medical colleague to try acupuncture to relieve a chronic post-nasal drip, on the basis that it had worked for his wife. The immediate result (within hours) was a rapid drying of the 3-month-old drip, followed by a full-blown antibiotic-resistant sinus and respiratory infection - turns out that the drip was probably keeping the bugs at bay! 

Conclusion: acupuncture can treat symptoms (pain, nasal drip...) but maybe not causes. Rationale: interrupting or overloading a neural feedback turns off the symptomatic response.
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Offline Bored chemist

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #9 on: 19/02/2017 13:18:48 »
I've seen a film of chinese veterinarians setting a cow's broken leg, using acupuncture anesthesia, and there have been some clinical studies in the UK of  the same process in human surgery.

I was recently recommended  by a medical colleague to try acupuncture to relieve a chronic post-nasal drip, on the basis that it had worked for his wife. The immediate result (within hours) was a rapid drying of the 3-month-old drip, followed by a full-blown antibiotic-resistant sinus and respiratory infection - turns out that the drip was probably keeping the bugs at bay! 

Conclusion: acupuncture can treat symptoms (pain, nasal drip...) but maybe not causes. Rationale: interrupting or overloading a neural feedback turns off the symptomatic response.

Anecdote<>evidence.
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Offline alancalverd

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #10 on: 19/02/2017 14:12:24 »
I think a film is evidence. And ultimately all evidence is just credible anecdote.

Very few people have ever observed an atomic bomb explosion but I'm sure you believe that E = mc2
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Offline Bored chemist

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #11 on: 19/02/2017 16:59:08 »
"I've seen a film "
is an anecdote.
Also, I have seen a film of superman...
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Offline alancalverd

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #12 on: 19/02/2017 18:24:50 »
Have you ever seen an atom bomb explode? Can't imagine why the government spends a fortune on anecdotes.
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Offline Bored chemist

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #13 on: 19/02/2017 20:56:02 »
You seem to have missed something.
Before  they built the H bomb, there was a really good reason to expect it to work- it's part of the whole integrated web that is science.
One bloke saying "I saw a film" really isn't the same thing, is it?
You also seem to have missed the point about superman.
We know that you can fake stuff on films. How do you know the cow wasn't spaced out on morphine or whatever?
Even without subterfuge, the injury that caused the broken leg may have damaged the nerves to a point where the cow didn't feel a thing.
As you say, there are levels of evidence- starting from anecdotal.
If I say I prefer roast lamb to roast pork you probably won't question it.
If I say I prefer unicorn, you probably don't believe it.

Acupuncture is in unicorn territory.
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Offline alancalverd

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #14 on: 20/02/2017 08:44:20 »
...except for those who have experienced it.

We know very little about how fish decide to migrate or how birds navigate, but those who make their living from hunting and fishing know when and where to find their prey. AFAIK people have been poking each other and sticking pins in for a very long time, and there is significant agreement between acupuncturists as to what goes where, even if "what" and "where" mean as little to Joe Public as "neutron capture crosssection".  As is clear from many of the posts in this forum, even well-educated amateurs have little grasp of quantum mechanics, but it works, so we use it.

So there's a mass of  collated experimental data and a connecting hypothesis with, apparently, some predictive value. That's actually better than our current understanding of the surgical treatment of knee pain, and a lot less harmful than routine tonsillectomy or suspensory ligament correction.

There's an old adage "medicine is what we do to amuse the patient whilst nature takes its course". Whether acupuncture is in the realm of unicorns or chicken soup, it meets the primary Hippocratic criterion : "first, do no harm".  And unlike surgery or radiotherapy, if it doesn't work, you can always try something else.
« Last Edit: 20/02/2017 10:10:16 by alancalverd »
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Offline Bored chemist

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #15 on: 20/02/2017 21:05:14 »
Why waste time talking to me?
Show that it's a real effect (rather than the placebo effect with a side order of confirmation bias).
Show that there's a plausible mechanism and real supporting evidence.
Win the Nobel prize, come back  and laugh at me.
I really won't mind- The personal embarrassment I feel (very little- this is an anonymous web posting) will be much more than offset by the knowledge that the world has a new  exciting field of effective medicine.


re.
"there is significant agreement between acupuncturists as to what goes where,"
You mean they all read the same book?
Wow!


There's the less old adage-
Q Do you know what we call alternative medicine that works?
A Medicine.

But even that';'s not the real problem: this is "it meets the primary Hippocratic criterion : "first, do no harm". "

One of the biggest risk factors for ill health is poverty.
Giving money to a snake oil salesman is very harmful.
It's even worse when they start to pretend that they can really cure stuff and thus dissuade people from finding effective (rather than fraudulent) treatment

In essence fraud is harm.
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Offline syhprum

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #16 on: 22/02/2017 22:43:50 »
When you consider the low output of the Hiroshima bomb compared the amount of U235 used it makes you doubt E=MC^2
syhprum

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: How does acupuncture work?
« Reply #17 on: 22/02/2017 23:41:48 »
When you consider the actual mass loss in U235 fission, it makes you respect the prescience and precision of  E = mc^2.
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