What is the point – sham acupuncture

Yet another waste of time. What is this obsession with sham acupuncture? Anyone who is involved in acupuncture realises that the effect begins when the tip of the needle touches the skin of the patient. After that there are two variables: the intensity of the treatment and the responsiveness of the patient.

One study looked at two treatments: shallow acupuncture that they called ‘sham’ and deeper acupuncture. Surprise, surprise there wasn’t much difference in effect. Their conclusion ‘acupuncture is no better than sham’. My conclusion ‘their sham was not sham at all, it was acupuncture’, if it proves anything it is that depth of needling is not very important.

A much better trial compared acupuncture with a drug known to control hot flushes.

Acupuncture was just as good at controlling the symptoms with fewer side effects, and no┬ádoubt a lot cheaper. I don’t suppose this trial will make the headlines – or am I just an old cynic.

This is what I would like to see: compare acupuncture directly with the normal drugs that are used routinely for arthritic joint pain, for IBS, for headaches and migraines. That would be a good start.