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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.
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.