Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sensing some Sensationalism...

From the article, Acupuncture: Nonsense with Needles (1993)

by Arthur Taub, M.D., Ph.D

Acupuncture has not merely failed to demonstrate significant benefits. In some instances, it has also been very dangerous.

Acupuncture needles are not only inserted into the skin. Needles, up to one foot in length(!), may be inserted deep into the body; serious harm may result when they penetrate vital structures. In one case of back pain and burning around the mouth and vagina, needles were inserted through the skin of the chest. The lung was penetrated and collapsed, filling the chest cavity with almost a pint of blood. The patient required two weeks of hospitalization which was complicated by pneumonia.

Death from puncture of the heart has been reported. Other reports mention puncture of the liver, spleen, bladder, kidneys, and the pregnant uterus. Since classical Chinese medical practice does not recognize that germs cause disease, acupuncture needles might not be sterilized. Lack of sterile technique can, of course, result in bacterial and viral infections. In China, acupuncture needles are stored in alcohol solutions. Since alcohol does not kill the virus that causes infectious hepatitis, contaminated needles can spread this serious infection from patient to patient. Cases of bacterial endocarditis (a life-threatening infection involving a heart valve) have also been reported.

Some acupuncture needles are unusually thin and poorly made. Such needles tend to break. One scientist suffered excruciating pain in an acupuncture experiment when the needle broke off in his foot. An operation was needed to remove the needle.

There are several problems with Dr. Taub's argument. He doesn't provide specific cases and proof behind his words. For example, what year was "death from puncture of the heart" reported? What newspaper? what city? What proof can he give for such a huge revelation. If his purpose was to scare people, he certainly succeeds. I get acupuncture and he even freaked me out. What an image, a penetrated pregnant uterus. His article, for whatever reason, is intended to scare the reader. For someone who knows nothing about acupuncture, it might actually have been convincing. For someone who is on the fence about acupuncture, it might just scare them away. Thats something that makes Acupuncture skeptics who are vociferous about their fears so detrimental to the community.

Someone who is already not sure about acupuncture might read this article and seemingly have their fears "confirmed". it would be an excuse to not have acupuncture. That makes the fact that this guy is a Dr and PhD completely unfair. he is abusing his power because it is obvious he doesn't know too much about acupuncture. But he argues convincingly and uses some scary language.

As far as the eye can see.

Its interesting to me how so many people hear I'm studying acupuncture and they ask, "does it work?"
Because the obvious answer is of course it I believe it works, why else would I be studying it? What do they really expect me to say?
well, to be fair, its an honest question. Because for so much of our lives, it has been ingrained in us that western medicine is the be all and end all.
Asian medicine is rooted in something mystifying. Most people, when you try to explain the five elements to them, wave their hand at you because its not scientific. It is arguably true that much of Eastern medicine is not scientific, when explained in western language. But if you define science as the acquring of knowledge from repeated "experiments" then it is very scientific. If an ancient person tried out some herbs and noticed these results, then that is a scientific experiement, despite the lack of beakers, butane and rats. its really a matter of acceptance. Accepting that there are some things which cannot be put in a box and explained away. This, i think is the fundamental problem between East and West.

If someone tells you A+B=C and then explains that A=3, B=4 and C=7 then you will not disagree. If someone else says A+B=C but then goes on to explain they only know C=222, then there are countless combinations for A and B. You would agree about that. But would you agree that there are infinite possibilities for A and B? the whole concept of infinity is analogous to chinese medicine. Chinese medicine says that there is an energy force which propels the entire universe forward. It makes up you, me, this computer and everything else you could possibly think of. When this energy is out of balance in your body/life, then problems will arise. You can't see this energy, you can arguably feel it if you are "in tune", but you can't prove it.
Just like you can't prove infinity.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dr. Barrett's Mission Statement

He says:

Traditional acupuncture theories and practices are not based on the body of basic knowledge related to health, disease, and health care which has been widely accepted by the scientific community. Moreover, schools that teach traditional Chinese medicine do not prepare practitioners to make adequate diagnoses or provide appropriate treatment. This Web site provides information about acupuncture that is difficult or impossible to find elsewhere.

What he should be saying:

Traditional acupuncture theories and practices are not based on Western views of the body and basic knowledge related to health, disease and health care which has been widely accepted by the scientific community. Schools that teach TCM do prepare practitioners with knowledge of Western diagnoses and the accompanying symptoms and how to effectively treat them. Teachers warn students to never diagnosis a Western illness themselves(an area in which they are not fully trained), yet to offer possible treatments for preexisting diagnoses that have been made by a MD. The importance and distinction between going to be Western doctor and Eastern acupuncturist is that you do not expect a Western diagnosis from an acupuncturist. However, you do expect them to understand the nature of your illness and this is an area in which they are trained.