The debate on the merits of acupuncture – and any other so-called “alternative” method of healing (think herbalists, meditation, chiropractors and so on) continues with two interesting headlines this week.
The first is the release of two systematic reviews by Cochrane researchers, showing that fake acupuncture works just as well as the real deal. The researchers showed that placebo treatment was just as effective in treating headaches as legitimate acupuncture technique. A recent Danish study of 3,000 patients reached the same conclusion.
Someone might want to let the U.S. military in on the results. The Air Force has announced that they will be training physicians to use acupuncture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Col. Richard Niemtzow, chief of the acupuncture clinic at Andrews Air Force Base, developed “battlefield acupuncture” in 2001, using short needles on five points on the outer ear to control pain and reduce stress.
When I first read that the military would be using a still-unproven means of healing in war zones, I balked. But upon further consideration, if soldiers experience reduced pain and stress, does it really matter that the relief might be all in their head?
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