acupuncture theory of ”opening the gates” in pain conditions, all participants received needling on Liver 3 (a point near the big toe) on the contralateral side of the affected arm, which was paired with Large Intestine 4, a point on the hand of the affected arm.14 If both arms were affected, the latter point was needled bilaterally.
A consensus team of senior acupuncturists selected 20 allowable acupuncture points based on the acupuncture literature. We used a ”manualized” approach27 that allowed some flexibility to vary the location of points according to the specific location and nature of the pain, while providing standardization of treatment. Besides the required points, practitioners could select between 5 and 8 additional points at each session and could include local area points traditionally used to affect specific regions (ie, LI 5, P5, P6, P7, and TW5) and local and distal sensitive ”ah shi” points.
Clear enough to you? Personally, it’s clear as mud to me. However, since “certified” acupuncturists picked the needle points, I can only assume that they picked points that they thought would yield the best chance of a therapeutic result. The “sham” acupuncture was performed at the very same acupuncture points but using sham needles with blunt ends that retract back into the needle hub after hitting the skin. They have been validated before and look and feel like “real” acupuncture needles. The only weakness in this study was that, although patients and the research assistants who recorded the pain levels and measured range of motion were blinded to the experimental group, the actual acupuncturists were not. However, blinding was assessed by asking patients whether they thought they were in the placebo or true acupuncture group, and similar percentages thought that they were getting true acupuncture. Be that as it may, the acupuncture regimen used included eight treatments administered over four weeks.
So what were the results?
Here’s where things get amusing. Both treatment groups, “true” and sham acupuncture, experienced decreases in the intensity of arm pain, arm symptoms, and noted improvement in arm function. However, patients in the sham acupuncture group improved more than patients in the “true” acupuncture group in the intensity of arm pain and just as much in measures of arm function and grip strength. The difference between the two groups was not sustained at a followup visit one month after the treatment ended, although the improvement in both groups remained detectable compared to baseline. Indeed, arm pain and arm symptoms scores declined faster in the sham compared with the “true” acupuncture group.
In this study, which was the largest, best-designed trial thus far for acupuncture for arm pain due to RSI, sham acupuncture was better than “real” acupuncture!
Not that any of this keeps the authors from trying to explain how sham woo is better than the woo itself:
Reasons for the superiority of the sham acupuncture device during treatment are not clear. One possibility is that treatment effects were blunted in the true acupuncture group because of the higher rates of side effects, and especially mild pain during treatment. We speculate that this http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/04/...-than-true-acu/