Does acupuncture really work?

Acupuncture’s beneficial effects have often been attributed to the so-called ‘placebo’ effect, in which the very fact that something is being done about a complaint causes it to get better. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the placebo effect is any more significant a part in acupuncture than in conventional Western medicine. In fact research has demonstrated that placebo drugs – substances containing no active pharmacological properties – can frequently produce a marked improvement in a person’s condition. This demonstrates that improvement can be the result of expectations, and should not be overlooked when assessing the success of any type of treatment, traditional or otherwise.

Acupuncture has been subjected to scientific and clinical trials, with mixed results. Experienced practitioners criticize these trials for the poor techniques often employed, and which highlight a lack of under- standing about acupuncture rather than testing its effectiveness.

Despite the lack of unequivocal scientific proof as to its effectiveness, there are many people who have received great benefits from acupuncture treatment. The view of the World Health Organization is that the sheer volume of evidence in favour of the ancient practice of acupuncture demands that the therapy be given major consideration by those involved in primary healthcare.