Since becoming an acupuncturist I’ve heard people allege that acupuncture’s efficacy may be placebo, implying of course that I must be an idiot, whether they realize said implication or not. If they do then this makes them quite the assholes – whereas if they don’t… well, who’s the idiot now?
Most of these people have never received acupuncture and all of them know nothing about it, but the skeptical mind demands hard evidence… except of course those who support taking anti-depressants even though it’s impossible to prove innate serotonin or dopamine deficiencies, or those who subscribe to any of the theories of modern psychology, which obviously cannot be proven with hard evidence. It makes me skeptical of skeptics: Is it really evidence they demand or just uniform acceptance by the group they identify most with during the present generation (which is sort of the opposite of skepticism)? I digress.
I wonder what would the motive have been for the ancient Chinese to concoct this “sham medicine” 5000 years ago to dupe all the “new agey” people into thinking they were getting better. I mean, of course they could have stood to make a lot of money… if money or “new agey people” had even fucking existed back then.
This is one of the major errors in common skepticism, that of copying and pasting modern motives onto a time where such intentions would have been obsolete. Ancient acupuncturists were not trying to expand their businesses with locations in all the major cities and a strong online presence to gain thousands of followers and really brand themselves, but merely trying to help their wife’s friend through her potentially fatal contraction of pneumonia. And she wasn’t some yoga student who drank kale smoothies and had her intentions for the new moon posted on her bedroom wall (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but just some poor woman in need. Acupuncturists were “doctors,” for all intents and purposes. They dedicated their entire lives to the study and practice of a paradigm that contemporary cycloid B cynic now hypothesizes as bullshit, thus again implying that they were either charlatans or fools, sipping the Kool-Aid no different than mindless cult followers. Curious. Before passing such judgment I’d recommend at least reading their texts, which begs the question, why write so much content on a farce?
If it’s all bullshit why spend the hundreds of hours it surely took to document their findings into the countless unentertaining texts written about it? For money? I could go to Staples right now and print all the shit on my computer, beautifully bind it into 200 pages of nonsense, call it a book, sell it myself, and probably in the next year make more money than Zhang Zhong Jing ever did off his classic, Shang Han Lun.
Since that pretty much rules out financial motive, what was it? Power? Sex? Were the chicks just chucking themselves at old healers with long beards who wrote dense medical texts? Or was it a huge hidden camera joke he was playing on the entire nation, in spite of there being no cameras or TV’s, or even jokes probably? Chinese Medicine is older than jokes.
“Does that stuff really work?” idiots ask me. All. The. Time.
No. I spent four years and six figures basically studying Scientology. Congratulations. You’ve surely just met the stupidest person you’ve ever met in your life.
How do I know acupuncture works?
Let’s begin with irony: I know it works because of all the times it doesn’t work. Acupuncture is a difficult practice that includes several procedural steps, along which even the subtlest mistake can be the difference between an effective or ineffective treatment. Since we diagnose in terms of patterns as opposed to disease labels we first have to deduce the patient’s pattern. Then there are infinite options for point selection within each pattern. Finally is the manual technique of properly locating, needling and stimulating each point. Compromised precision in any of the aforementioned steps can result in lesser results. Personally I’ve received treatments that did exactly what I wanted and others that did nothing. I suppose skeptics’ explanation for these latter instances would be that my faith wasn’t strong enough, an apparent epidemic with acupuncture patients across the globe, along with those of short-term faith that varies in duration. Fascinating!
I have many patients whose particular diets and/or lifestyle choices are largely culpable for the perpetuation of their patterns. Such cases are frustrating for any healer, west or east. But it is interesting how on certain weeks the alleged placebo effect was able to carry them free of pain for 5-6 days, while on others only 2-3 days, and on some others the placebo effect didn’t even kick in until the second or third day after treatment. Fascinating.
Acupuncture is just one modality of what most of us practice, which is TCM: Traditional Chinese Medicine. This includes cupping and moxibustion, nutritional guidance and herbs. It should be noted that one of the key ingredients in many of our herbal formulas used to warm the body and/or digestive system is ginger. So while the FDA is obviously nowhere near recognizing Chinese herbs as a legitimate form of medicine, most of society and many doctors already have, most without knowing so. Chinese herbs are a part of the exact same paradigm as acupuncture, which means if you believe ginger can help some people with digestion you believe in acupuncture, whether you know so or not.
It seems unlikely to me that the allegers of placebo effect would also be believers in things like the “law of attraction,” power of positive thought, or books like The Secret, but if you think about it these really are the same principle. E.g. If we have the power to cure our own headache by taking a false pill then we must just have the power to cure our own headache, which means we probably have the power to cure much graver conditions, which makes us pretty much all potential shamans, and medicine relatively useless, which is the most “new agey” shit I can conceive of. To suggest otherwise would only highlight the hypocrisy and/or stupidity of skeptics.
Acupuncture is most accepted by the people of New York, Boston and California. You know… just like all smart things.
It’s nice when adults agree to disagree beneath the premise: Everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s adorable in its hollowness and diplomacy, but deep down we all know that being wrong is significant. We have an opinion about someone who opposes gay marriage or racial equality, just as they do about us, just as I have an opinion about people who think Tupac was better than Biggie. If our skeptics are correct, that acupuncture’s benefits are wholly contingent upon placebo effect it says something about either the integrity or intelligence of all acupuncturists. By the same token, if they are wrong it must say something about them.