Thursday, May 19, 2005

More on acupuncture...

Yesterday I went to an excellent acupuncturist to deal with some tendonitis I seem to have picked up due to stress and over-enthusiasm at the gym.

I had been to an acupuncturist two times before, for colds. One of them had gone on literally for a month; with the acupuncture & herbs it was cleared up in three days.

The experience for the type of pain I had was quite different. I'm amused, by the way at one of my commenters on my post below who thought - perhaps due to that moron Alan Alda's TV show which often praises conventional medicine - that acupuncture works because of a "placebo effect" or that it "mutilates nerves." Actually, both my commenter and Alda should realize that one of the reasons there are studies being funded in it is because some previous studies have shown that acupuncture has promise. (Update: Actually, Alda's even more idiotic than I'd remembered: modulating using the body's natural opiates and modulating them is not quite the same thing as a "placebo effect," since natural opiates obviously do the same thing as the ingested ones. And I use "idiotic" and "moron" with all due kindness towards Alda, after all, he's as liberal as they get. )

It's not. In fact, one could say that the conventional treatments such as Ben-Gay are more "placebo effect" than acupuncture. Although it is easy to scoff at the Chinese notions of "Chi" (気) involved, it is pretty easy for me to envisage why this stuff works. Unlike the simple application of Ben Gay (I wonder if my commenter knows why that works?) the message sent to the brain and nervous system from acupuncture is more complex, with, I would suppose, a more complex response from the brain/body.

Regardless, I'm amused at how people opine on this topic, even though they've never had the treatment. For this type of pain, acupuncture's effect is profound (kind of like a big psychic/proprioceptive "whack" followed by a progressive calming), and I don't understand how anyone could predict what would be experienced conincidentally with acupuncture would be a "placebo" effect. Moreover, it's easy to create a test the falsifiability of acupuncture, and so studies are being done.

Oh, and Ben-Gay works because you've basically got 4 types of nerve receptors/pathways, and the "burning sensation" receptors/pathway is the most sensitive (and travels fastest to the brain), for obvious reasons. The application of Ben-Gay and related topical remedies (not the ones containing salicylates)- hit these receptors, which in effect "jam" the other pathways. I got that from watching the medical lectures on satellite TV, instead of say, college football. Or Alan Alda. The quality of PBS is for sh*t these days.

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