From a workshop celebrating the 10th anniversary of the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Bethesda, Md.:
Believe it or not, the National Institutes of Health has had a National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine for 10 years. To celebrate, they hosted a workshop with several speakers who addressed some big topics in complementary and alternative medicine.
What stuck out for me (pun intended) was Dr. Bruce R. Rosen of Harvard Medical School, who spoke about “Acupuncture, Pain, and Placebo.” Dr. Rosen cited some studies that showed a significant impact of acupuncture vs. no acupuncture for relieving chronic pain and pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, to name a few examples.
In one study (I didn’t get the citation) sham acupunture was as effective as the real thing, and both were significantly more effective than no acupuncture.
I’m not suggesting that real acupunture doesn’t have benefits. But this particular study reminded me of a similar study a few years ago in which sham knee surgery was as effective as the real thing. Looks like more evidence for the power of the placebo effect, or in this case, maybe just a more “hands-on” approach to pain management.