We all have our favorite ways to help improve our health or stress levels. Acupuncture has become a rather popular means of doing so in some circles thanks to its quick turnaround time and the appeal of a time-tested solution for various physical problems. This form of alternative medicine purports to be able to solve chronic pain, skin issues, and issues with internal organs through the proper placement of needles within the body. It sounds a bit silly when we put it like that, but that’s the truth of what most acupuncture is trying to do. Some modern practitioners have scaled back the claims of what acupuncture can do, but even these operate on the same principles as the more extravagant claims. Despite all of this, acupuncture remains wildly popular. Why? It would seem like there must be something to it. With that in mind, let’s take a close look at how acupuncture is supposed to work and the evidence of these claims.
Acupuncture, simply put, traditionally claims to work through the manipulation of human life force. Needles are inserted at key points along the body’s flow of this life energy to help disrupt blockages, adjust the flow, and help improve the overall balance of energy within the body. The issues acupuncture seeks to address are credited as being responsible for almost every ill of the human body. These days there are some practitioners moving away from the idea of the practice being the manipulation of life force and opting instead to say that are stimulating nerve clusters or something similar in an attempt to update the terminology being used to more scientific seeming standards. Due to the widespread use of acupuncture, it has a great deal of proponents who claim its efficacy for almost everything. Pain management tends to be the most common thing people credit it as being good for and many people have tried acupuncture and had a positive experience. There’s more going on than you’d think from the surface though.
The fact is that even the “updated for the 21st century” forms of acupuncture tend to use the exact same placement of needles as the one purporting to manipulate life force. Acupuncture is simply another form of ancient energy medicine that has no real scientific support. The mechanism that it claims to work by can’t be proven. As a practice, acupuncture has been tested time and time again without there being any true evidence of its efficacy. How do we explain everyone who has had a positive experience that seems to make it appear that acupuncture works? Interestingly enough, acupuncture is actually a surprisingly effective placebo treatment where the belief it will work ends up causing the brain to simulate it working a degree. The expectation of pain relief literally leads the body to feel less pain. This has actually been demonstrated through the use of “real” and fake acupuncture in clinical studies where everyone believed they were receiving real acupuncture and experienced similar overall results. That evidence alone would be damning, but there are countless more studies examining the claims in detail and finding nothing.
What It All Means
When we take a closer look at acupuncture, we’re forced to conclude it is little more than a per-scientific form of treatment based on a less sophisticated knowledge of how the body works. All apparent benefits of it are well within the statistical range of the placebo effect as well. Like all forms of energy “medicine”, acupuncture cannot stand up to rigorous examination. It can’t even support the basic principles upon which it claims to work. This ends up meaning there is absolutely nothing to suggest it as an actual means of helping to manage any condition. The only exception to this is instances where an electrical current is passed through the needles, but that is a less safe form of an already existing medical treatment. The good news is that acupuncture isn’t that likely to hurt you as long as you recognize it is no substitute for actual medicine and the necessity to ensure that anyone providing acupuncture needs to use sterile needles.
Acupuncture is not a viable treatment for any health issue. It has no provable mechanism of action, no scientific backing, and the statistical analysis shows it to be as effective as taking sugar pills. That doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be relaxing for anyone who enjoys the sensation though. Just be aware of the evidence and indulge responsibly.