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Acupunture Demystified - Input Junkie
April 23rd, 2010
10:51 am

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Acupunture Demystified
A series of articles saying that the energy and meridians model for acupuncture is a result of bad translations, and has nothing to do with the materialistic model actually used by traditional acupuncturists, and that the real model is consistent with scientifically based medicine.

Chi is actually air, and meridians are actually blood vessels (the charts which show meridians which have nothing to do with blood vessels are another western addition). The Chinese knew about the circulation of the blood 2000 years ago.
Modern research has demonstrated that neurovascular nodes (acupuncture points) contain a high concentration of sensory fibers, fine blood vessels, fine lymphatic vessels, and mast cells. These nodes are distributed along longitudinal pathways of the body where the collateral blood vessels supply the capillaries and fine vessels. The corneum stratum of the skin in these areas is slightly thinner with a lower electrical resistance. They also contain more sensory nerves, and have more fine vessels with sequestered mast cells than non nodes.

Ancient Chinese physicians recognized that neurovascular nodes (acupuncture points) on the surface of the body could reflect disease conditions in the internal organs, and that these same nodes could be stimulated to relieve pain and treat internal organ problems.


From the comments:
After the book [The Dao of Chinese Medicine] was published, Kendall was invited to China to give a presentation on the mistranslations of Soulie de Morant at the Shanghai medical school. After the presentation, at the tea party hosted in Kendall’s honor, some old, renowned Chinese physicians approached Kendall. They thanked him for his presentation, and told him that they were already aware of the mistranslations and their implications. Kendall asked them why they hadn’t told us in the west. Their reply was, “If westerners are naive enough to think that acupuncture works by moving magic energy in imaginary meridians, then what can we do for you?” (Robert Doane, 2010).


There's an extensive discussion of possible placebo effects in the comments.

Link thanks to Seth Roberts

(10 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:thnidu
Date:April 23rd, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC)
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I like! Signal boost.

But your link to "Seth Roberts" is to his blog, not to the entry. As I type, the story there is The Hockey Stick Illusion.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 23rd, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC)
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If you like it now, wait till you've read the whole series and, if time permits, the comments.

I've added the detailed link, but there's no added information there about acupuncture. On the other hand, there's a link about Robotussin improving womens' fertility.
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From:thnidu
Date:April 23rd, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
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Well, I read the "Hockey Stick Illusion" post comments and a couple of other posts, and I'm not sure I like this guy's blog in general at all.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 23rd, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
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He's a contrarian, and I think sometimes he's onto things (his approach to self-experimentation looks valuable) and sometimes he overgeneralizes. I hope you'll take the acupuncture discussion on its own merits.
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From:thnidu
Date:April 23rd, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
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Yes, the acu discussion looks quite credible.
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From:whswhs
Date:April 24th, 2010 05:52 am (UTC)
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You know, that's an interesting claim about acupuncture, but when I read the question Do you think Chinese medicine would have survived for more than 3,000 years and spread to every corner of the globe if it wasn’t a powerful, complete system of medicine? I think, why not? Humoral medicine survived from ancient Athens until quite modern times; the Victorians were still bleeding and purging in the 1800s. That's a large fraction of the longevity of Chinese medicine. And yet humoral theory is totally out of touch with reality. Or consider the long survival of delusional ideas in other fields, from economic theories like just price, the identification of wealth with gold and silver, or the condemnation of charging interest as a form of theft to Christian or Muslim theology to Ptolemaic geocentric astronomy (which actually was useful for celestial navigation, despite being wrong). So that particular argument strikes me as dubious. In fact, I think it's the fallacy of affirming the consequent, if I understand the definition of that fallacy correctly.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:April 24th, 2010 12:14 pm (UTC)
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Bad Medicine is about the history of sustained mistakes in medicine-- I haven't read it, but it looks plausible.

I'm not sure what sort of fallacy that is. Now that I think about it, I don't know whether there's a fallacy associated with having a false premise.
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From:whswhs
Date:April 25th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
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I looked up "affirming the consequent," and it is the following argument:

If A, then B.
B.
Therefore A.

Or in this case, "If medical ideas were valid and useful, then people would continue to use them; the Chinese continued to use their medical ideas; therefore their medical ideas are valid and useful."
[User Picture]
From:redbird
Date:April 24th, 2010 12:22 pm (UTC)
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If that's an accurate quote, I would reply "And if Chinese physicians are arrogant enough to think that every Westerner who is smart enough to realize that the explanation makes no sense, will assume that the claims are valid and the lie is in the investigation, they shouldn't expect to be taken seriously." If I had what I believed to be a valuable method of healing, and I knew that half the people it was being presented to were being given a mistaken and obviously false explanation—and that three-quarters of those were dismissing the approach because of that—I wouldn't sit there and think "if they're naive enough to believe that we believe that, they don't deserve to be healed."

Once again, I don't think highly of people whose response to a situation is to laugh at anyone naive enough to believe them. Or even to believe people who claim to speaking for them, when they could point out that it's not true.

(If, in fact, the people Doane talks about have repeatedly tried to correct this, and not been listened to, no blame to them; it's possible that Doane is adding to the misrepresentation.)
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:April 24th, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
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Sneering at people for ignorance and/or cluelessness and giving up on them seems to be a very common human default. People even make up ignorant people to have more to laugh at. (Blonde jokes, Chelm, Polish jokes, etc.)

I'm not sure what's going on there, it's not one of my favorite human traits. They should know better.

Edited at 2010-04-24 03:17 pm (UTC)
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