I thought Battlefield Acupuncture was a joke. (Sadly, it wasn’t. Well, not in the conventional meaning of “joke”.) Now, from reader Joe, I learn that a hospital in Australia is planning to use acupuncture in emergency departments to treat acute migraine, back pain and ankle injuries after its “success in lowering pain levels in patients attending a busy public hospital”. What was this “success”, you ask? This is the description of the pilot study, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Dr Parker said patients who turned up at casualty were given the option to be treated by final year or graduate acupuncture students from RMIT in conjunction with standard medical treatment.
Regular readers will have no problems seeing the problems with this study, and the reasons that it does not show that acupuncture does anything, which are:
- Not randomized – participants self-select to receive acupuncture, meaning that probably only those who start off believing it will do something, will be included in the trial.
- No blinding – participants know which group they were in (acupuncture or no acupuncture).
- No sham acupuncture.
- Standard medical procedures were used in addition to acupuncture – so patients received the benefits of pain medication that actually works in addition to the magic needles.
And yet on the basis of this patently useless pilot study, more than $400,000 (Australian) has been allocated for a three-year clinical trial. This despite the fact that we know acupuncture is a placebo that provides no difference in pain intensity.
So, yet another useless acupuncture pilot study followed by (undoubtedly) another useless acupuncture study. And after that, you can bet that yet “more studies” will be called for. I’d put money on it.
More Acupuncture Links
Articles by Steven Novella:
Several posts by me: