I've much appreciation for the dark, sacrilegious with of PZ Myers. Admittedly, he does from time to time live up to his critics worst invectives, but I understand from whence his own invective emerges; it's kind of the sickness and medicine he and religion trade with each other. But, as they say in Japan, even monkeys fall from trees now and then.
His latest fall is in an otherwise biting article against a quack practitioner of Chinese medicine. Now I've been a consumer of Chinese medicine now and again; some of it works, especially the wintergreen oil preparations they use (containing saclicylates - aspirin like compounds). In Myers article, though, he gets a bit too dismissive:
... I'm left marveling: there are no acupuncture points anywhere, it's all a load of hokum, so where do they get off rejecting so unambiguously an assertion from another quack? I see claims that sticking a needle in an ankle will fix a problem in an elbow, for instance, so using their own unsubstantiated illogic, maybe dithering about in the vagina is just the thing to fix a case of dandruff.
Acupuncture eases pain in the limbs because it releases a natural molecule called adenosine, neuroscientists in the United States reported on Sunday.
The mechanism was discovered through experiments in lab mice, which were given an injection of an inflammation-inducing chemical in their right paw.
The researchers inserted fine needles below the midline of the mice's knee, at a well-known acupuncture location called the Zusanli point.
They rotated the needle gently every five minutes for 30 minutes, mimicking a standard acupuncture treatment.
During and just after this operation, levels of adenosine in the tissues surrounding the needle surged 24-fold. The mouse's discomfort -- measurable by the rodents' response time to touch and heat -- was reduced by two-thirds, they found...
Previous work has focused on acupuncture's effectiveness on the central nervous system -- the trunk of nerves in the spinal cord and brain -- rather than the peripheral nervous system.
In the central nervous system, acupuncture creates signals that cause the brain to produce powerful anti-pain chemicals called endorphins.
I'm inclined to give this credence; its authors are with the University of Rochester Medical Center. They do real science there and are funded to do so. It is true that like chiropractic (which is useful for very minor back and neck problems, but not much else, in my understanding), acupuncture is often touted as a panacea, but it does have its place in medicine it seems.