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Yet another worthless acupuncture study?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on January 22, 2009

Another acupuncture study has come out showing that acupuncture appears to” decrease the number and distress of hot flushes in men receiving castrational treatment for prostate cancer“. I don’t have access to the actual study (hence the question mark on the title) so I will have to rely on what is briefly reported here.

The researchers tested the effects of traditional acupuncture (TA) and electrostimulated acupuncture (EA) in 31 such men, who were randomized to receive one of these treatments for 12 weeks. TA consisted of 12 needle points; EA consisted of 12 needle points, of which four were electrostimulated.

Twenty-nine patients completed the study. The number of hot flushes per 24 hours decreased significantly with treatment

First the sample size is too small. Maybe good for a pilot study but I think it’s way too small to be able to come to any conclusions either way, pro or con. Second, it appears there was no control group, the participants were simply divided in two groups and each group received one of the treatments. Controlling for the placebo effect is very important, especially given the recent studies showing that “real” acupuncture and sham acupuncture work just the same.

Especially if you’re going to claim that it is “in line with or better than medical regimens for these symptoms,”. I don’t buy this. If anyone can get their hands on the PDF and e-mail it to me at I would appreciate that very much.


2 Responses

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  1. Jim Zaccaria said, on January 23, 2009 at 3:11 AM

    I surely don’t have experience with, nor do I desire to join the group tested, but I Can attest to the fact that Acupuncture I received from was Very effective for alleviating symptoms I experienced from a whiplash injury sustained some 2yrs prior. I will be studying effects of brainpower at the upcoming as well to determine if modalities like acupuncture are really necessary.

  2. Skepdude said, on January 23, 2009 at 4:07 AM

    I don’t doubt that’s what you felt, if you say so. Was this as part of a study or as a patient? How much were your symptoms alleviated would you say on a scale from 1-10? Were you taking any other medicine at the time? How much of this relief do you think is due to the placebo effect? How long ago did you undergo the treatment? Has the pain come back or gone away, or stayed the same after the treatment?

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