Acupuncture has been criticized for being no more than a complex form of 'hypnotic suggestion'. Available research work shows that those gaining benefit from acupuncture treatment are no more or less suggestible than those for whom acupuncture does not work. It would therefore seem that acupuncture does not depend on suggestibility. At the same time, acupuncture does have a certain amount of 'magic and mystery' surrounding it. Almost certainly this creates a small amount of benefit although it does not fully explain the dramatic and significant therapeutic effects of acupuncture.
Some research workers, particularly in Russia, have suggested that fields of biological activity exist around all living objects. The concept of 'biofields' has little hard scientific evidence to support it, but there are people in both Russia and America who are suggesting that acupuncture may work through these 'fields Dr. Nogier's pulse reflex may possibly be part of the effect of such 'biofields'. At present there are no good grounds for accepting or rejecting these theories.
The Clinical Application of These Theories
Whatever scientific theories are used to explain the mechanism of acupuncture, not one, at present, explains where to place an acupuncture needle when the acupuncturist is confronted by a patient. The choice of which acupuncture point to use is largely based on the information obtained from traditional Chinese acupuncture, and even those acupuncturists who know no traditional theories use recipes based on them2 We will remain dependent on the empirical experience and philosophical theories of the ancient Chinese until a method of point selection can be deduced from an understanding of the scientific mechanism of acupuncture. Science will, and should, provide an explanation for the observations of the ancient Chinese, but in the meantime we should not reject acupuncture just because we cannot explain it completely.
- 1 Morphine, heroin and opium are all related chemicals, collectively called opiates.
- 2 An acupuncture recipe is a selection of points used for a particular disease. No attempt is made to follow a traditional diagnosis, the points are just learnt ant used automatically.