Previous blogs have related the interesting conundrum about acupuncture: it seems to have a beneficial effect on pain, but not because of the traditional ways of explaining it, via meridians and etc. Rather, there seems to be something biological happening, and the next job is to try and explain it in a rational, science-based way. There has been a lot of press coverage of a paper in Nature Neuroscience claiming that the mechanism, that of the release of natural painkillers with acupuncture, has been detected.
However: the paper is heavy going, but if you read to the bottom you’ll see this was a lab based study in mice. It looked at ‘real’ acupuncture, not sham, which we already know can have some effect on pain. If you are going to do biological experiments, you need to take account of this. Is the same chemical explanation present with effective ‘sham’ acupuncture? If we don’t take account of this, I fear we will be going around in circles for some time yet.