The trial in question has been published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and was conducted by Andrew J Vickers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York.
Of the 18,000 patients trialled – all of whom were suffering from pain such as osteo-arthritis, backache, shoulder pain and neck pain – the effects of acupuncture were significantly better than doing nothing.
Many experts have argued that it is virtually impossible to conduct a double-blind trial in the case of acupuncture because unsurprisingly an acupuncturist tends to know when they are sticking real needles into a patient’s body, and equally a patient tends to feel it when real needles are inserted into their body. Without being able to do this – it remains unclear whether the effects are a placebo or are indeed genuine.
According to those who believe acupuncture is far from a placebo, the nerve fibres and muscle fibres within the body are electrically conductive like acupuncture needles. This means that it is possible that acupuncture ‘short circuits’ the electrical circuitry in the body resulting in a temporary spasm not dissimilar to that of an electric shock.
Physiotherapists and midwives often use electricity to control muscle and labour pains – which is a concept that dates back thousands of years to the Romans who reportedly used electric eels to supply a jolt, and Benjamin Franklin who thought that mild shocks could be used for pain control.
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