Monday, 5 September 2016

Does acupuncture work?

Before you comment take a read.

I have been considering writing this post for a while, but have avoided it specifically as I know what the word "acupuncture" invokes in most skeptics mind. But after a discussion with a fellow skeptic the other day I think it is time to address this issue, basically because I think there are some things that need to be clarified and in essence it comes down to terminology.  In a nutshell, acupuncture in the East (where I live) and in the West (where the word acupuncture elicits a response of distaste) are very different practices. So let me give examples from two different countries and the meaning that acupuncture invokes.

In Korea acupuncture is what most people would classify as physiotherapy or an extension thereof. Sure there are the pseudo-oriental doctors that will try convince you about life forces etc, but then there are doctors which also encourage non-vaccination in the West. Basically, acupuncture is mostly what has been termed dry needling in the West. So to outright reject acupuncture in the East is rather silly as it is the method of dry needling. Another idea they employ is electrotherapy or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, but instead of external pads some doctors will use the inserted needles to relay the electric signal. I have to say some doctors, as some doctors will also use external pads, after all this is a type of physiotherapy so why would they not.

In South Africa, acupuncture when not used as dry needling by physiotherapists, is the principle of chi and getting the life force in tune with aromatherapy, needles and relaxing music. In other words a spa treatment with no practical health benefits, except to elicit a placebo effect or make you feel so relaxed that you feel better even though you are not. This is what most skeptics fear when they hear the word acupuncture and as such I cannot blame people for skepticism regarding acupuncture.

Now, considering these two examples we can then see that the practice of acupuncture is a complicated story. Essentially it is easy to throw it out and say why use the word acupuncture when you can say dry needling, but honestly most people do not even know what dry needling is. As such I think it is beneficial to look into acupuncture and understand that there is the positive and also the outright lies. So when someone says acupuncture works, perhaps it is a good idea to ask them what they mean when they are talking about acupuncture. I will say acupuncture works while living in Korea, but I may not be so forthcoming when speaking to a healer from the West as I know they are talking about a completely different thing.

So what are your feelings about acupuncture? But if you respond, perhaps you need to first clarify what you are talking about.