THE TRUTH ABOUT
(Investigator 134, 2010
is a Chinese
form of therapy where small metal needles are inserted into specific
points on the body. These points, known as "acupoints", are claimed to
be located on special internal body channels, (meridians), through
which, it is claimed, flows Chi, a special form of energy.
to using needles in Chinese medicine is contained in the Huang-ti
nei-ching, (the Inner Classic of the Yellow Sovereign, also
known as the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor). The
fundamental basis of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and
acupuncture, were, and remain, metaphysical cosmic forces; these are: -
- Yin and
mutually opposed forces that produce cosmic balance, Yin was perceived
as a visible physical substance while Yang was, "...the formless and
insubstantial" (Lu and Needham, 1980a, p. 862);
- Qi or Chi:
spiritual life-energy, generally referred to as "a flow of energy" or
simply air or breath, was much more complex. It was considered to be "vital
or heavenly air" (Mainfort, 2004, p. 38) that came from the sun.
Omura (2003) defined it as meaning, "...the flow of something that
is the source of vital energy for humans and animals" (p.24).
- The Five
Similar to the ancient Western theory of humors, the Chinese identified
five elemental substances, Water, Fire, Earth, Metal and Wood. To the
Chinese the number "five" was an extremely mystical and auspicious
number, thus there were five directions, the four cardinal points plus
philosophy, good health depends on the constant interaction, and in
particular, the balance produced by the harmonious combination of the
Yin, Yang, Qi and the Five Elements. Coordinating these forces were
astrological Macrocosmic/Microcosmic influences. The Chinese believed
there existed an inexorable link between the heavens, the "great
cosmos" and the Earth, the "small cosmos" and that everything that
occurred on Earth was a "reflection" of events in heaven.
Chinese medical philosophy was profoundly influenced by Confucianism
and Taoism, both of which stressed the concept of "harmony".
Confucianism stressed the concepts of righteousness, and good relations
to produce a harmonious and stable society. While Confucianism was
primarily concerned with a secular code of conduct, Taoism was based on
a belief in an indefinable universal energy that was perceived as being
part of, and flowing through, all things animate and inanimate. It
represented a union of opposites, whereby the mystical cosmic forces
combined to create a sense of harmonious balance throughout the cosmos.
known example of
this "cosmic balance" was the concept of the Yin and Yang, two aspects
of a single concept, that represented the, "...two sides of the same
or as polar areas of a single whole…" (Capra 1977, p. 21) It was
their "dynamic interplay" that produced continuing cosmic balance. Over
time, these concepts came to be applied to the fundamental principles
of human life and, it was reasoned, if one lived in harmonious balance
with the natural cosmic order one would also experience good health. It
was this cosmological deviation which, as Epler (1980) observed,
diverted TCM into a stagnant backwater of primitive insularity rather
than pursuing the scientific development that occurred in the West. (p.
primary importance for
practitioners of TCM and acupuncture was the concept of Qi energy and
its ability to flow through the body in regular cycles. The most
important aspect of this Qi energy was that it must be maintained at a
harmoniously balanced level; too much, or too little can result in
imbalance or disharmony. There were numerous factors that could upset
this vital balance. Unfavourable environmental conditions, a poor diet,
too much physical or emotional stress, all can produce an imbalance in
the system that could produce physical or mental disorders. The
ultimate aim of TCM was to restore the vital balance when it was out of
harmony and, in this respect, acupuncture is sometimes referred to as,
"treating patterns of disharmony."
is based on
the belief that there existed in the body a system of special channels,
(jing luo — called meridians in English), through which the Qi
energy flowed, "in a pre-determined direction from meridian to
meridian circulating through the entire body" (Omura, 2003, p. 24).
It was believed that any interference with this flow of Qi could
produce disharmony (sickness) in the body, but that harmony could be
restored by inserting small needles into some of the 361 (WHO, 1993)
specific acupoints, (xue — literally, a hole or cave), located
along six yin, six yang, and eight extraordinary channels through which
the Qi flows. This needling process, it was claimed, could produce a
significant effect upon the flow of Qi in the meridians.
pathways of the
meridians and the locations of the acupoints are based upon Chinese
concepts. While the various acupoints were believed to have a
relationship to particular organs, their locations are not necessarily
near to the organs being treated; furthermore, not all acupoints are
located on the various meridians. The meridian system appears to be a
Chinese invention for when Simon et at (1988) injected technetium 99m —
a radioactive tracer substance — into both acupuncture and control
points, they noted lymphatic and venous drainage of the technetium 99m
at the site of the initial injection, and the substance was then
absorbed into, and transported through the veins, with no evidence of
the origins of
acupuncture are uncertain, it appears that it began as an early form of
bloodletting (phlebotomy), a form of "medical treatment" used widely in
ancient times, based upon a primitive belief that illness was caused by
evil spirits invading the body, and that they had to be removed before
an individual could be cured. According to Seigworth (1980) it probably
developed from the Neolithic practice of trepanning, where stone tools
were used to open the human skull to release evil spirits, and by 1,000
BCE the Egyptians had begun to create wounds in specific parts of the
body in the belief it would enable the evil spirits to escape from the
infected area of the body.
known tools for bloodletting were bian stones samples of which have
been found in Inner Mongolia dating circa 3000 BCE. Also sharpened,
arrow-shaped stones, sometimes called "needle-stones" that were used to
treat disease, (Wertz 2008). These items were probably important parts
of the medical kit of early Chinese physicians, the arrow was possibly
used for, "minor surgery or acupuncture" (p. 22). Eventually,
according to Manaka and Urquhart (1973), these stones were replaced by
needles of bamboo, fish-bones (p. 95) and even animal bones (Lu and
Needham 1980a, p. 863). Then, in the Shang Dynasty (1600 - 1046 BCE)
the first metal needles were produced. It appears that, as Epler (1980)
noted, the principal reason for inserting these needles was, "...so
that blood flows out." (p. 350)
considerable disagreement as to whether acupuncture is a valid form of
therapy in the treatment of actual physical diseases. This is due, in
part, to the fact that no research could be found dealing with the use
of acupuncture in the treatment of diseases per se. This
possibly reflects the fact that traditionally, when dealing with
diseases, the philosophy is to use acupuncture as an auxiliary form of
therapy in the belief that, by stimulating and strengthening the flow
of Qi, the natural healing ability of the body is maximized, and so is
best able to deal with the actual diseases.
principal areas of
effectiveness for acupuncture appear to be those disorders that have a
degree of psychosomatic input. Numerous studies suggest that
acupuncture can produce positive physical responses in a range of
disorders such as post-operative nausea (Lee and Done 2004), migraines
(Linde et al 2005), neck pain (Trinh et al 2007), and chronic lower
back pain (Haake et al 2007).
three major problems with these results: -
There are various methodological problems with many of these
studies, making their findings suspect;
Some of the findings have been deliberately falsified; and
Even if acupuncture is shown to provide positive results, it is
not necessarily proof that acupuncture, per se, is the primary factor
in producing the various physiological changes.
NCAHF Task Force on
Acupuncture found that the main problems with those studies which
recorded positive results for acupuncture was,
numbers were too small, and
On the other
designed studies with larger numbers of subjects and proper controls
tended to indicate there was no difference between acupuncture and the
various other controls. In a meta-analysis of ninety-one separate
studies on pain control ter Riet, Kleijnen, and Knipschild (1990)
concluded the studies were generally of poor quality and that, the
poorer the design, the more likely they were to show that acupuncture
was effective, whereas better designed studies, with stricter controls,
revealed no evidence that acupuncture was an effective form of
treatment. They concluded that overall, the efficacy of acupuncture for
treating chronic pain remained dubious.
They tended to lack
problem with any
research is that too often researchers are biased, and when the results
do not support their thesis, they tend to "manipulate" the results. One
example of this is Smith, Crowther and Beilby (2002), a study comparing
the effectiveness of traditional acupuncture with p6 acupuncture (an
acupoint on the anterior surface of the forearm), sham acupuncture
(where needles are inserted in areas close to but not in defined
acupoints), and no acupuncture, to treat nausea dry retching and
vomiting in early pregnancy.
findings the report emphasized that, "Traditional acupuncture was
shown to be an effective treatment for...nausea and dry retching in
early pregnancy" yet it failed to mention that while 23% of those
using traditional acupuncture were free from nausea, the results were
even better for those using sham acupuncture (25%). Similarly, no
mention was made in the final analysis that a larger percentage of the
sham acupuncture group were free from dry retching (59%), compared to
those receiving traditional acupuncture (56%). While these findings
clearly indicate that there is some common factor occurring with both
acupuncture and sham acupuncture, the sham acupuncture results are
ignored in favour of evidence that "acupuncture works."
traditional acupuncture and sham acupuncture show little or no
difference between the two. Richardson and Vincent (1986a and b)
analysed 28 studies of the effectiveness of both on pain relief; 15
showed no difference while 13 indicated acupuncture was more effective,
but the differences were too small to be significant. Most similar
studies produce similar results showing that acupuncture is no more
effective than sham treatments (Lee, Andersen, et al., 1975; Moor and
results suggest a
psychological component in acupuncture. Significantly, many of the
attributes of traditional acupuncture, especially pain reduction that
is frequently presented as evidence of the efficacy of acupuncture, are
surprisingly familiar to those experienced in hypnosis. Katz et al
(1974) noted that subjects with the highest levels of hypnotizability
responded best to acupuncture, while those with low hypnotizability
levels had little or no pain relief. Mendelson (1977) found similar
when used as anaesthesia for major operations, both hypnosis and
acupuncture are only effective on a small number of patients. In
various Chinese hospitals the number who volunteered for operations
using acupuncture ranged from 7% to 30%, and of these the acupuncture
was only, "...successful in about 90 percent of these cases."
(DeBakey, 1973, p. 166)
how in 1972, for instance, Chinese acupuncture patients were subjected
to several days of intense indoctrination by a therapist who encouraged
them to adopt a positive attitude towards the treatment. (p. 1169)
Amongst the significant variables listed by Kroger (1977) that
influence the use of acupuncture are, rehearsal of the procedure, "…the
ideological fervour...patriotic adherence to Maoist doctrine; and...the
characteristic stoicism of the Chinese." (p. 224). One can see that
such patients would be ideally prepared via suggestion, to undergo
operations under acupuncture.
surgical patients also receive Western style sedatives; "... local
anaesthesia with procaine, and an intravenous drip with pethidine and
other drugs" (p. 1169). DeBakey (1973) reported that before
open-heart operations with acupuncture, the patient was extremely
drowsy, having been given phenobarbital and morphine, which produced
deep relaxation, "...and put him in a suggestive state." (p.
162). DeBakey (1973) also noted the numbers of hospital patients using
acupuncture ranged from 7% to 30% and of these, in only about 90% of
cases was the acupuncture successful. (p. 166)
been proposed to explain the fact that both hypnosis and acupuncture do
have a positive effect on alleviating pain:
These are natural substances created in the body during times of
stress, and are structurally similar to morphine and heroin producing
similar heightened feelings of exhilaration, in effect a ‘drug-high’
that interferes with the experience of pain (Hassett, 1980, p. 86).
Manheimer et al. (2005) suggested that perhaps sham acupuncture
produces similar ‘physiologic responses’ (p. 660); and subjects use
these natural pain-control mechanisms, which can be triggered by the
use of such techniques as hypnosis, meditation, and other relaxation
Theory: It was proposed by Wall and Melzach (1962) and Melzach and
Wall (1965) that the stimulation of certain nerve fibres, either by
pressure or touch, could produce impulses which effectively interfered
with other signals either reducing or blocking the experience of pain.
practitioners strive to present the practice as having a legitimate
scientific basis, when one examines acupuncture closely, it becomes
quite clear that it is nothing more than a collection of pre-scientific
religious and philosophical concepts, masquerading as a form of medical
treatment. Acupuncture is based upon primitive metaphysical concepts
that have absolutely no relationship to legitimate medicine; some
examples of the core-beliefs of acupuncture are: -
The number of needles used in acupuncture is nine, a number
chosen solely for its astrological and auspicious significance. (Epler,
TCM the pulse is taken at three locations each having three depths
(again the mystical number nine), although according to other TCM
authorities there are either six (NCAHF, 1990) or fifteen different
pulses (Sampson and Beyerstein, 1996, p. 31).
Plain Questions states the pulse should be taken "just before
sunrise" since. "… it is traditionally believed that yin and yang are
relatively in balance macroscopically just before dawn." (Flaws
1995, p. 43
is quite clear that in early acupuncture acupoints were unknown, and
were a much later concept;
number of treatment points (hsueh), mentioned in Plain Questions is 365
(Epler 1960, p. 362) a number based upon the days of the year. However,
over the centuries this number has increased to some 2,000 points
Acupoints appear to be irrelevant. DeBakey (1973) reported that
for a particular type of operation the needle was inserted on top of
the forearm, at another hospital in the underside of the forearm, and
in another instance, the needle was inserted in the ear, (p. 165).
Although the original number of meridians was eleven (Epler 1960,
p. 339), it is now generally accepted there are twelve primary
The Neijing never mentions the importance of the brain,
processes are attributed to the twelve internal organs, in particular
to the five solid organs, heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys, and
the five hollow organs, the gall bladder, large and small intestines,
stomach and bladder, "…various mental diseases are considered to be
due to the abnormal function of the internal organs..."
(Omura 2003, p. 30).
acupuncture is, "...the result of a long development and bears
little resemblance to its ancestral version" (Epler 1960 p. 337),
it still retains ancient pseudo-scientific concepts, and has absolutely
no real relationship to scientific medicine. There is strong evidence
to suggest that acupuncture is nothing more than a form of suggestion
similar to hypnosis.
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