It may be time to admit that acupuncture is little more than a placebo:

Entitled Acupuncture treatment for pain: systematic review of randomised clinical trials with acupuncture, placebo acupuncture, and no acupuncture groups, [the study] appeared in the BMJ two days ago and was performed by Madsen et al at the Nordic Cochrane Center.

This particular meta-analysis examined studies of acupuncture for pain. The results were thirteen trials, with a total of 3,025 patients between them.

What were the findings?

In essence, zilch, nada, zip.

Well, not quite. Although it is statistically significantly different than zero, it is barely so. Indeed, it’s so small that that it falls below the minimally accepted threshold for a clinically noticeable reduction in pain.

That’s not to say a “just being a placebo” is necessarily a bad thing. The placebo effect is incredibly powerful, and in the right cases, can be harnessed for real benefit to people in pain.

There’s a full chapter devoted to the effect in Michael Brooks’ 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, though, for the lazy or those lacking an Amazon Prime account, a summary is available in the article that inspired the book:

Don’t try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.

The article is a great read if you have an hour. The book is a much better read if you have a weekend.