Well, this is a very much discussed topic. Although there is a serious lack in research into the scientific basis of acupuncture, an not insignificant number of studies have been performed, trying to verify the efficacy of acupuncture. For that purpose one thing that always pops up is the distinction between “true” and “sham” acupuncture. Like the distinction between the real drug and a placebo in clinical trials. Apart from the fact, that the design of pharmaceutical clinical trials cannot really be applied to research into acupuncture, the concepts of “true” and “sham” acupuncture present a problem, I believe.
Naturally, performing “sham” acupuncture, not considering the ethical implications of “knowingly deceiving” the patient, is always difficult to realize technically. But the real problem is not the “sham” acupuncture – it is the “true” acupuncture.
The Chinese try to make everybody on earth believe, that their way is the only “authentic” = “true” form of acupuncture. Yet, it uses needles almost as think as sharp-pencil mines, that are inserted “free hand”. This requires some REAL (!) skill to do it in such a way, that it is NOT painful.
I have tried a lot of different brands of needles, but by now come to the conclusion, that “Made in China” represents a very low manufacturing quality. Needling with needles “Made in China” is almost inevitably painful. I tried that myself. And on top of that, the assertion is, that unless you do not elicit the so-called “de-qi” feeling, which is according to definitions by most physiologists a kind of pain, the acupuncture will not be effective.
MOST of my patients, including myself, do NOT like the pain called “de-qi”, or “tokki”, as it is called in Japan. Thus, one type of pain coupled with another type of pain (from the technically poor needles) causes the patient CONSIDERABLE dyscomfort! In fact, and I have been told so by people who underwent such treatment in Germany or the USA, the dyscomfort is so intense, that even though the patients received money from the government, in order to participate in a study designed to show the efficacy of acpuncture, they rather choose to drop out of that study. It was just too painful. And the treatment had been delivered by professionals with something like +20 years clinical experience!
If the treatment is something like a medieval torture, so that patients break into cold sweat even before the third or fourth treatment session and therefore leave the study, the obtained results can hardly verify the value of acupuncture treatment.
Using Japanese needles, technically superior, which are much thinner and inserted with the help of a tube, so that there is usually no pain or dyscomfort whatsoever, “Japanese style” acupuncture treatments still relieves many of the patient’s symptoms – without pain or dyscomfort. Usually my patients leave with much improved symtoms and a feeling of satisfaction.
I think, the world should know about this! And put the true acupuncture into perspective.