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July 06, 2005

Second study questions 'real' Acupuncture

A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine has supposedly shown that Acupuncture is no more effective than "Sham" Acupuncture in treating fibryomyalgia patients. The reports coming out of the AP and webMD are not good reporting so if anyone has medline access and can send me the whole article please do so.

The study compared a traditional TCM treatment with a "sham" group of non-point needling, and non-insertion needling. It's hard to determine from the articles whether all three were effective or not, but the point was that they all did about the same. Recently, JAMA had an article in May showing that Acupuncture and "sham" Acupuncture were both good at treating migraine headaches, but that they did so equally.

So my question is: are all of our recent grads of OCOM's doctoral going to school for naught? If more and more of these studies keep coming out saying that you can just put the needles anywhere our profession may be in serious danger.

Update 7/12/05: Thanks to my old friend KK who sent me the actual study, I've noticed a couple of things in reading it.

1. There were 3 treatment groups. A set protocol for TCM Acupuncture, treatment for a supposedly unrelated condition (menstrual pain from Heat), and non-traditional point needling. The non-traditional points were oddly chosen in areas that in my mind could control qi flow to the limbs.

2. The point selection I found quite strange from a TCM point of view:
Treatment alternated btwn:
a. LI11, Sp9, Cv12, St25, Kd7, TW5, YT
b. BL 43, 44, 17, 18, 20, 22, Kd7

Interestingly the sham group was:
Lu7, Sp10, Cv3, Lv2, Kd5

I've never heard of a treatment protocol like either of the above for either fibromyalgia or for menstrual pain due to heat. Kd7, LI11, St25 for pain? eh?

3. Previously successful studies involved the use of electro-acupuncture while this is notably missing it.

4. The sample sizes on all of these groups are somewhat limited (~24 people).

Posted by Admin at July 6, 2005 01:48 PM


At least with the migraine study, they claimed that hands down the people in both Acupuncture groups got better. If I'm not mistaken markendly so. Thus, even if sham Acu was just as good, it's still worth having done if you're having a migraine.

This is just sad. I read about it in my local paper and basically the reporting is just saying that Acu is worthless. This wouldn't be the first time reporters on mass...notably the Associated Press screwed up a story like this.

Posted by: Jackie Rondal at July 7, 2005 10:35 AM

My thought is that perhaps the non-specific effects of needlilng include endorphin release. This solves the back pain. Perhaps is they looked at long-term results, the 'real' acupuncture would do better than the sham. In reality, they don't use 'real' acupuncture at all. They use in the study a set of fixed points that are known to deal with back pain. So maybe, if you don't address the individual condition (and the body-mind-spirit stuff that informs it) the needling is no more useful than 'false point' needling. Makes sense to me. I mean, does a 5 ft. hysterical female have the same source of back pain as a sleepy linebacker? I believe the results for these two types of acupuncture were 53% reduction in pain for the sham, and 51% for the 'real'. Perhaps if they used traditional chinese medicine system point selection, based on the individual, they pain reduction would have been greater.

there's my 2 cents.

Posted by: tcmchab at July 8, 2005 12:22 AM

Great point tcmchab. In China, most studies have multiple treatment groups that are broken up by TCM diagnosis. For example, a recent study on Dysmennorrhea treated three different groups: Lv Qi Stagnation, Blood Stagnation, and Sp and Kd Yang Deficiency. Aside from those three groups were a control and a non-needle acupuncture. The results were very clear and much higher than previous trials that just had a single treatment protocol.

As far as I know there aren't any studies of this variety being done in the states which is a serious shame.

Posted by: Steve at July 8, 2005 02:44 PM

That study is horrible, those points aren't going to do much...

Posted by: JB at July 25, 2005 05:58 PM

I thought the "sham" group was supposed to be non-acupunture points...all this study shows is a different use of theory, will comparable results

Posted by: heshouwu at October 6, 2005 06:47 PM

Is someone prepared to give me an opinion ? I'm a 2nd year TCM student in UK. Now, I'm not asking for anyone to do my assignment, but this is driving me nuts! Patient diagnosed by western doctor wit Meniere's disease and hypertension. Signs, tinnitus, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, constipation, red face, red eyes, temporal headaches, and pain behind the eyes, has dizzy spells that last between 1-5 minutes, wiry/rapid pulse, red tongue. His business is going badly, so very anxious, may have to lay staff off. Not talking much to his wife and kids, keeping secrets. I know Liver Fire/ Liver Yang rising, butI can't help feeling there is an underlying condition, and it isn't as straight forward as it looks. Any one got any ideas?

Posted by: Andy Rossi at November 13, 2006 02:14 PM