Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Everything You’ve Heard about Acupuncture Is Wrong

By Harriet Hall

Acupuncture is often cited as an effective alternative method of treating a range of ailments, but few people are aware of the origins, philosophies and contradictions involved.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Acupuncture is widely believed to be effective but is not widely used. In America, only 6.5% of people have tried it, and a quarter of those stopped after a single treatment. One-quarter of the Japanese have tried it at least once, but more than one-third of those said they wouldn’t use it again.

Most popular beliefs about acupuncture are wrong. Here are some common ones.

Acupuncture Makes Sense

The theoretical basis of acupuncture is pre-scientific and vitalistic, involving imaginary structures and forces. Qi is said to flow through meridian channels in the body, with any blockage of flow causing disease. Inserting needles at specific acupoints is said to restore the flow.

Because of acupuncture’s relationship to astrology there were originally 365 acupoints, symbolically corresponding to the days of the year. Qi, meridians and acupoints are undetectable by anatomists or physiologists.

Acupuncture Means One Thing

There are many different systems of acupuncture: some involve skin penetration, some don’t. Some involve the entire body; others are limited to the hand, ear, scalp etc.

Penetration methods include needles alone or with manipulation (twirling) or electrical stimulation, tiny gold beads implanted under the skin, and injection of homeopathic remedies into acupoints. Non-penetrating methods include...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.