Does acupuncture work by placebo effect?

It is easy to think that acupuncture works because people believe in it. However, when acupuncture performed on animals, it yields very positive results thereby showing the effectiveness of acupuncture.

American studies have not yet been able to be formed in a way that honors acupuncture the way that it is practiced. Meaning, they key to a successful treatment is in the diagnosis. If seven people come in with an ulcer, even though they get prescribed the same medication by a doctor, you can have seven different diagnoses in TCM. Why is that? This is because we, as acupuncturists, take into account several factors (to name just a few): is your ulcer aggravated after you eat; does food help the ulcer feel better after a time; do you notice that it’s worse with stress; is your ulcer worse in the afternoon or evening?

By asking these questions, we are finding the root of the problem. By treating the root, the disease will gradually lessen.

In Germany, they have devised a triple blind type study that honors the technique of diagnoses in TCM, compares the traditional Chinese medical diagnosis with a diagnosis that comes from very little education (in China, these people are barefoot doctors, in America some M.D.’s and some chiropractors practice with this type of acupuncture practice) and that with points that are both random and in specific places that will not influence the treatment.

With this triple blind study, a person comes in with a specific condition, they are diagnosed by the doctor who looks at his reference and finds with each diagnosis comes a series of points that are color coded (for example) yellow is the color for this particular diagnosis, green is the color for the less educated diagnosis, and blue is the color that consists of unimportant points. This physician then leaves with those three colors as the choice. The next person to come in- the needle administrator- is given a random choice of one of those colors, they then administer the needles. A third person will come in at the end of the session, remove the needles and then ask how the treatment felt. By administering acupuncture in this type of testing field, one can see just how effective acupuncture is, and how much it differs from the less educated set of points. Even though the less educated points are not as effective as the traditional set of points, they are still better than the placebo group of points.

Lori Earley