What is actually happening during acupuncture, does it actually work ?

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What is actually happening during acupuncture, does it actually work ?

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Acupuncturists will have you believe that the needles are intercepting the flow of negative energies throughout your body and that they’re essentially ‘bleeding’ the negative forces out through those needles.

It works, to a degree, *however* the argument that a combination of the placebo effect and, for lack of a better phrase, ‘a different kind of pain’ is what’s actually at play here; by believing it works and by being distracted by a different, milder discomfort and through the body’s attempt to deal with it, people *do* experience relief.

In Acupuncture and in most of traditional Chinese medicine, there is a belief that an invisible life force (called qi) flows through our bodies using certain pathways (called meridians). Illness is generally caused by an imbalance in qi within our bodies, so acupuncturists stick needles at certain meridian points in the body to balance the flow. You can think of our body as a series of pipes, with qi being the equivalent to water, and the needles as valves. If there is something wrong with the water flow in any area of the body, then you manipulate the valves until the water flows correctly.

Whether any of this works or not, is the real question. Right now, there does not seem to be any conclusive proof that acupuncture is actually effective at what it does, so it is often considered a form of quackery.

They did a test on acupuncture for long term back pain. 1/3 got traditional treatment. 1/3 got acupuncture. 1/3 were told they were getting acupuncture but really the needles were placed randomly rather than at the “correct” locations.

The traditional treatment worked fairly well. Considering that is what people had been getting already this shows that being in a medical trial improves your health.

The acupuncture group showed a massive improvement. The fake acupuncture group showed almost exactly the same improvement.

So either being poked with needles is good for you or acupuncture is a highly effective placebo.

You’ll see a lot of studies use a sugar pill group as control, instead of just a group which doesn’t take any medication. That’s fine in an effort to control for placebo effect. It’s based on the observation that if you had your trial group, a placebo control group and a “regular” control group, often times if the drug does nothing, the first two will score the same, but still outperform the last.

With that in mind, acupuncture does work. It just works on the scale of placebo. Scientifically, there isn’t really a meaningful distinction between things which work as well as placebo in all cases, but via a different mechanic than placebo. So, hypothetically, it might work the way acupuncturists claim, and just happen to always be exactly as effective as placebo. Or it might just be a placebo effect.

You know what they call Eastern medicine that works?

Medicine.