Acupuncture and Science

aiguille-1280088_640I love the skeptics:  “I’m a scientist, so I have a hard time believing in acupuncture.”

My response:  “People used to not believe in bacteria, but they would still get sick.”  

What I remember from 4th grade science class is that the scientific process consists of these steps:

  1. make an observation (I had a headache, then I had acupuncture and now my headache is gone.)
  2. form a question (Does acupuncture get rid of headaches?)
  3. form a hypothesis (Acupuncture gets rid of pain in the body, including, but not limited to headaches.)
  4. conduct an experiment
  5. analyze the data and draw a conclusion

We’ve had tons of steps 1 through 3, but not too many steps 4 and 5.  Why?  

Because it’s very time-consuming and expensive AND because there’s very little money in natural healing.  Not like the pharmaceutical industry anyway.

hexanol-835644_640One single clinical trial for a new medication can run $100 million (Forbes, 2/10/12, The Truly Staggering Cost of Inventing New Drugs).  I’m not sure if we added up the money made by every single acupuncturist in the US for one year if we could come up with $100 million.

Some studies have been done on acupuncture, and have shown favorable results, but the studies are limited.  The population tested was limited and the acupuncture techniques tested were limited.  The health conditions tested were limited.  Limited not by imagination or desire but….money.

I know plenty of under-employed acupuncturists who would love to run a clinical trial.  The problem comes down to funding.  Most acupuncturists, if they’re not busy treating patients or hustling up new patients, have no money!  Not big money, anyway.  Not $100 mill by far.

anatomy-254120_640Then you have to consider the economic and political climate this is happening in.  

If a very thorough experiment on the effectiveness of acupuncture is ran, and proven(!), then what happens???

Results get published; more people start using acupuncture instead of prescription drugs and surgeries; and the medical and pharma industries become outraged.

Maybe nothing would happen then except a big shift in the medical world, a shift that if you ask me is long-overdue.  

But usually when these big companies take a hit, they don’t go quietly out; they come back swinging.  I’m sure you could come up with some imaginative movie-plot-like ideas of what they could do.  Like buy out all the acupuncture schools and either make it obsolete or make it highly exclusive and hard to learn.  Or change the laws governing acupuncture and make it more difficult to obtain a license.  I don’t know.

I still think acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine as well are worthy of studies but maybe we don’t even need that.

Traditionally, Chinese medicine research and development was based on real-life experience.  Instead of the scientific process, it’s more like

  1. theorize
  2. try
  3. adjust theory
  4. try
  5. successful?  Yes:  done; proven.  No:  Repeat steps 1-5.History-of-Acupuncture

 

 

 

And continue this for 5,000 years.  Another scientific theory, the theory of evolution states that organisms change over time as a result of changes in physical or behavioral traits. Changes that allow an organism to better adapt to its environment will help it survive and have more offspring.   China has the most populous country in the world, right?  Also, if a characteristic is ineffective for human evolution, it becomes extinct.  Acupuncture is showing no signs of slowing.

What do you think?  Should we do more clinical trials proving acupuncture’s effectiveness?  Is just knowing that it works good enough?   

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