Washington: A new study has found that acupuncture is ineffective in treating hot flashes, joint pain, and other menopausal symptoms.
Forty-seven female breast cancer patients were treated with eight weeks of either real or fake acupuncture as a way to reduce the side effects of an anti-cancer medication.
Twenty-three patients were given real acupuncture (placing needles on carefully-selected points on the body), and 24 were given sham acupuncture, where needles were placed (but not actually inserted into) the skin at random locations.
The treatment's effectiveness was determined by patient-reported symptoms, and the study was double-blinded (meaning that neither the patients nor the researchers knew who got the real acupuncture treatment).
Both the real and fake acupuncture improved the patient's symptoms, which came as no surprise to the researchers because of the placebo effect. When a patient is given a treatment and told that it will help him or her, often it will - even if there's no active ingredient. A person's expectation that they will feel better can make them feel better subjectively.
The study, led by Dr. Ting Bao of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, found no difference in symptom relief between the two treatments, Discovery News reported.
The fact that real and fake acupuncture treatments were indistinguishable demonstrates that the acupuncture is ineffective.
After all, the entire premise of acupuncture is that the needles must be placed at very specific places in the body in order to stimulate and channel alleged bodily energy fields (often called "chi" or "qi" - which, it should be noted, are unknown to science).
In other words, if acupuncture had validity, merely poking random places in the body with acupuncture needles, pencils, toothpicks, or anything else should have no effect.
The study is published in the journal Cancer.