Acupuncture for hypertension – more evidence that it does not work

acupuncture for hypertension

The claims for acupuncture have any clinical usefulness are vastly overblown with evidence ranging from weak to nonexistent to dangerous. As Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine once wrote, acupuncture is nothing more than “theatrical placebo.” On the long list of ridiculous claims for this pseudoscience is using acupuncture for hypertension treatment – and once again, real biomedical science shows it is worthless.

And now, it’s time to examine a systematic review that debunks the false claim that acupuncture for hypertension is useful.  Continue reading “Acupuncture for hypertension – more evidence that it does not work”

Veterinary acupuncture – nothing more than pseudoscientific animal cruelty

veterinary acupuncture

When I write about junk medicine and pseudoscience, I generally stick to human medicine. Recently, I wrote about the asinine people who refuse canine vaccinations, which led me to search for other alternative veterinary medicine that mirrored those for humans. That’s when I ran into veterinary acupuncture.

I’ll explain the evidence in more detail later in this article, but it needs to be stated right up front – acupuncture is a pseudoscience unsupported by any real scientific evidence. Acupuncture is generally supported by anecdotes, which are not data, and terrible clinical studies that, at best, show acupuncture to be nothing more than a placebo.

Given the lack of evidence supporting the efficacy of veterinary acupuncture, there’s only one way to describe the insertion of needles into your pets – it’s animal cruelty. It’s animal torture. It is not veterinary medicine.

If you want to believe that acupuncture works because you buy into the pseudoscience, go for it. Pay the charlatans pushing this nonsense because you trust in your beliefs rather than in science. It’s your choice.

But subjecting your pets to this travesty, who have no choice? Back to what I said before, it’s animal cruelty. Why would you do that to your favorite pet?

Like I said, let’s look at the pseudoscience behind veterinary acupuncture. Then put it in context of animal cruelty. Continue reading “Veterinary acupuncture – nothing more than pseudoscientific animal cruelty”

Pseudoscience is bullshit and science is definitely not

pseudoscience is bullshit

Pseudoscience and science – the former is a belief system that uses the trappings of science without the rigorous methodologies that values evidence. The latter is an actual rational methodology to discover facts about the natural universe. Pseudoscience is bullshit. Science is rational knowledge.

Pseudoscience is seductive to many people partially because it’s not only easy to comprehend, but also because it creates black and white false dichotomies about the natural universe. This fake science is the basis of alternative medicine, astrology, and many other “fields” that true believers try to say is science.

Pseudoscience tries to make an argument with the statement of “it’s been proven to work”, “the link is proven”, or, alternatively, they state some negative about scientifically supported therapies. It really  has an appeal to it because it digests complex analysis to a simple “yes, this works.”

Alternative medicine relies on this pseudoscience by creating the illusion that medicine can be really easy if you drink this kale shake, and you will have 100% chance of avoiding all cancer. Real science based medicine provides real clinical information about every cancer, how it can be treated, and what the real prognosis is.

Acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy, and many other “alternative medicine” beliefs are pseudoscience. They simply lack robust evidence to support their efficacy.

For example, real science has debunked the “there is a proven link between vaccines and autism,” a common and rather dangerous belief.  Real science has failed to establish the clinical usefulness of most alternative medicine (CAM) therapies.

We will also explore what exactly makes an idea scientific (and spoiler alert, it isn’t magic), and contrary the logic of science, what makes an idea “pseudoscientific.” So sit down, grab your favorite reading beverage, because this isn’t going to be a quick internet meme. Pseudoscience is bullshit, and let me show it to you. Continue reading “Pseudoscience is bullshit and science is definitely not”

Acupuncture research – evidence is overwhelming that it is not medicine

acupuncture research

Recently, I read an article in the Medical Journal of Australia that lists “156 health care practices identified and flagged through the search platform as potentially unsafe, ineffective or inappropriate in certain circumstances (pdf).” They cover procedures from prostatectomies to arterial stenting that lack evidence to support their continued use in many circumstances. Unsurprisingly, the list examined acupuncture research and found it lacking – it’s not medicine.

I know, people will get all upset. They’ll throw out anecdotes, like people do with chiropractic, or cherry pick poorly designed studies to “prove” that acupuncture works. They’ll try to convince everyone who will listen that it’s some sort of racism of Western based “mainstream” medicine that dismisses acupuncture. Because if it worked for your cousin’s daughter’s hairdresser’s uncle, it must be real medicine.

However, the overwhelming opinion of evidence based medicine is that acupuncture does not work. In the article, “An industry of worthless acupuncture studies,” Steven Novella concludes,

There are now thousands of acupuncture studies looking at every indication you can imagine (which stretches credulity that there is any common underlying mechanism). We are well past the time for preliminary studies. Despite thousands of studies, there isn’t a single indication for which real acupuncture has been shown to work to a high degree of confidence. At this point I would say that acupuncture should be abandoned as a scientific concept. It is a failed hypothesis that has added no real knowledge to our understanding of health and disease.

If, however, you are going to spend the resources to do an acupuncture study, make sure it is rigorous enough to add new information, and isn’t just another preliminary study to throw on the pile and get another round of misleading headlines about how “acupuncture” works. Of course a cynical person might suspect that this is the real goal of these studies.

I’m not going to review all 150 plus medical procedures that fail to meet the standards of evidence based medicine. That would be a book! But let’s focus on what they say about acupuncture research. Spoiler alert – it doesn’t work. Continue reading “Acupuncture research – evidence is overwhelming that it is not medicine”

It’s difficult to be a real scientific skeptic – let’s make it easier

scientific skeptic

Since I started this website, nearly four years ago (that’s 50 internet years), I’ve noticed a serious problem – some skeptics, even scientific skeptics, are lazy, trying to take the easiest way to accept or refute a claim. It is difficult to be a real scientific skeptic (see Note 1). It’s not impossible, but it takes more than using some intentional or unintentional bias or fallacy.

This lack of real skepticism has manifested itself in some incredible meta memes: “vaccines are dangerous,” “gluten is dangerous,” and “GMOs are dangerous,” even in groups who are ostensibly “pro-science.” However, if I replied to them, “wow, you must be a creationist too,” generally, their indignant reply would make a sailor blush.

Scientific skepticism is hard, not because of the complex science (even though, that is part of the issue), it’s because searching for the evidence that supports or refutes some claim is often nuanced, and contradictory. And researching it isn’t easy.

Thus, as a self-proclaimed scientific skeptic, I thought I’d write an article to help anyone learn more about what interests them, how to discriminate between bad and good research, and where to find good information. Sit down with your favorite internet consuming device, grab your favorite snack and drink, and enjoy.

Continue reading “It’s difficult to be a real scientific skeptic – let’s make it easier”

Traditional Chinese medicine kills dolphins

Traditional Chinese Medicine kills dolphins

I am not a fan of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Very few of its medical claims ever amount to anything. Most of it isn’t very traditional and doesn’t work, like acupuncture. Worse yet, TCM is involved in the destruction of rare animals like the African rhino and other endangered animals. Now, we find that Traditional Chinese Medicine kills dolphins – just to push a “medicine” that has no evidence supporting its use.

Let’s look at this recent story where purveyors of TCM have indirectly lead to the collapse and near extinction of a beautiful ocean going mammal. Per usual with TCM, it’s a tale of greed and junk medicine.  Continue reading “Traditional Chinese medicine kills dolphins”

Relevance of Nobel Prize and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Last week, the Nobel Prize Committee gave out the 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine to three researchers, including Youyou Tu (see note 1), for her novel work in developing a medicine to treat malaria. Dr. Tu was the first Nobel Prize winner in the natural sciences from China, so she is a groundbreaking scientists in many ways.

Because Dr. Tu found the potential cure through research into Chinese herbs, many people have proclaimed that traditional Chinese medicine has now been “proven.” But not so fast.

What is the relevance of the Nobel Prize and Traditional Chinese Medicine – is there any importance at all?

Let’s take a look at Traditional Chinese Medicine, in general, and Dr. Tu’s work itself. The story is quite a bit more complicated, nuanced, and scientific than you might have read. Continue reading “Relevance of Nobel Prize and Traditional Chinese Medicine”

Using acupuncture to treat knee pain–no evidence

hellraiser-acupunctureLet’s start right from the beginning–there is no evidence that acupuncture has any significant clinical benefit for any condition. And because there is a small, but significant, risk associated with the acupuncture, the risk to benefit ratio is huge (if not infinity, since there is no benefit). There is simply no reason to accept, even a small risk, if there is no benefit to a procedure.

Just in case you don’t accept my words about acupuncture, Steven Novella, MD, of the Science Based Medicine blog, clarifies why acupuncture does not work:

Clinical research can never prove that an intervention has an effect size of zero. Rather, clinical research assumes the null hypothesis, that the treatment does not work, and the burden of proof lies with demonstrating adequate evidence to reject the null hypothesis. So, when being technical, researchers will conclude that a negative study “fails to reject the null hypothesis.”

Further, negative studies do not demonstrate an effect size of zero, but rather that any possible effect is likely to be smaller than the power of existing research to detect. The greater the number and power of such studies, however, the closer this remaining possible effect size gets to zero. At some point the remaining possible effect becomes clinically insignificant.

In other words, clinical research may not be able to detect the difference between zero effect and a tiny effect, but at some point it becomes irrelevant. Continue reading “Using acupuncture to treat knee pain–no evidence”

Treating depression with acupuncture-evidence is lacking

hellraiser-pinheadLet’s start out with a basic point–acupuncture does not work. For anything in medicine. And because there is a small, but significant, risk associated with the “procedure,” the risk to benefit ratio is huge (if not infinity, since there is no benefit). 

Just in case you don’t believe me, Steven Novella, MD, of the Science Based Medicine blog, clarifies why acupuncture does not work:

Clinical research can never prove that an intervention has an effect size of zero. Rather, clinical research assumes the null hypothesis, that the treatment does not work, and the burden of proof lies with demonstrating adequate evidence to reject the null hypothesis. So, when being technical, researchers will conclude that a negative study “fails to reject the null hypothesis.”

Further, negative studies do not demonstrate an effect size of zero, but rather that any possible effect is likely to be smaller than the power of existing research to detect. The greater the number and power of such studies, however, the closer this remaining possible effect size gets to zero. At some point the remaining possible effect becomes clinically insignificant.

In other words, clinical research may not be able to detect the difference between zero effect and a tiny effect, but at some point it becomes irrelevant. Continue reading “Treating depression with acupuncture-evidence is lacking”

Acupuncture for treating Bell’s palsy–myth vs. science

4acupunctureOf all of the alternative medicine therapies, acupuncture is the one that seems to get the most research money, and gets the most claims of effectiveness. Emphasize “claim”, because as of yet, there are no studies that show anything beyond a placebo effect, and some have shown results worse than placebo. Most of the studies are poorly designed, with poor control groups, with poor results.

Here are just some of the Cochrane reviews of acupuncture research that conclude that acupuncture lacks any clinical efficacy:

That’s just a few of many negative studies. 

So what is acupuncture? Its theoretical basis is that health and sickness are caused by the good or bad flow of Qi through the body, in particular along the twelve major meridians of the body (though some authorities list fourteen or even more) which run from head to toe along the body, and which are associated with the bladder, gallbladder, heart, large intestine, small intestine, kidneys, liver, lungs, spleen, stomach, pericardium, and other things. It is a form of woo medical procedure based on sticking needles into the dermis at precise points to affect the Qi. Except there is no evidence at all that this Qi exists. It’s pseudoscience. Continue reading “Acupuncture for treating Bell’s palsy–myth vs. science”