The strength of the placebo effect with acupuncture

Did anyone else see this article? It seems to be making the rounds like wildfire–in the headache & acupuncture communities, at least. I’ve long since been interested in acupuncture but can’t get my mind around the fact that several of the studies cited most often to acupuncture experts are not well-crafted and cannot serve to make generalizations about larger populations. I know several people whose lives have improved since going to acupuncture–headaches, back pain, and more have been reduced to amazingly low levels for some friends who’ve gone to an acupuncturist. That’s wonderful–but is the belief in acupuncture more powerful than the process itself?

The needles aren’t painful as they enter your body (and as they rest there for awhile). Lying on a table imagining your body healing itself is good for anyone, even those without an acupuncturist hovering above. Imagining those energy channels opening up, envisioning your body working smoothly, all its parts in line–these visions probably accompany acupuncture treatment and may be just one part of the reason acupuncture seems to work so well.

I’m not looking for an argument here–there are many people who truly believe in its power. I am not denying that it works for many, many people. I’m grateful and happy that it’s brought such relief to some people in my life! But, as this article suggests, its anecdotally-reported success in the migraine community might be attributable to the placebo effect. And maybe that’s okay–as long as it works, right? Scientific and medical experts warn that the placebo effect wears off eventually, leaving people where they started. Even if that is the case, can’t we be happy that the patients have seen a break in pain without putting more drugs in their systems?

What do you think?

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