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July 25, 2006


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When woo is applied to horses there are standard, recognisable signs that it is working. These include lowering the head, dozing off, yawning, passing wind etc. Strangely, any horse standing around for any length of time will do exactly the same things...

Some cats would endure the treatment. We've got an outside cat who's a total slut. I mean it, she rolls over on her back and writhes at your approach, begging to be rubbed on the belly. It's very undignified.

Heh, try sticking needles in her, Runolfr.

My brother's cat could probably take the tummy rubs and needles. We suspect he's a small black dog in disguise, since he likes tummy rubs, even when you put your back into them, like you would with a dog.

I recall at the time China Westernized its economic policie, PBS did a documentary series explaining hwo Chinese culture differed from Western.

One of the segments showed how at Chinese medical schools physicians were trianind in bothe Western and Traditional medicine.

I distinctly recall that they shwoed major surgery (I beleive it was an appendectomy--certainly the abdominal cavity was opned up) using nothing for anaethesia except accupuncture. It was wasn't an experiment. They claimed it was a standard paractice at the hospital and so easily repeatable. They admitted that there was no way to explain how it worked on the Western model.

At the time (I was in High School) I thought that PBS would not broadcast outright fraud, and that if what was shown was possible, then surely the phaenomenon would quickly be investigated and understood.

I am now inlcined to suspect that the physicisans ahd perpetrated conscius fraud against the film makers.

The impression I get from my recent persual of the Skeptic's circle sugggests that experimentatin with accupuncture ahs shown that it is compeletely ineffective.

Does any else recall that program, of can suggest a site with a more general treatment of the subject.

Helena: you could read this report by Gary P. Posner. In summary, it seems unlikely that acupuncture was used alone: either other anesthetics are also used, or the entire procedure is a sham.

Generally good, but I can't resist making a little trouble:

1) One of the theories for how acupuncture might provide anaesthesia, is that the stimulation from the needles distracts from or undercuts the pain signal. Seems to me that could well work for dogs....

2) Just how sure are you that the placebo effect *wouldn't* be available to dogs? Communicating the expectations involved would be the big issue, but dogs do pick up more than most people think -- and they can be *very* psychologically dependent on, and trusting of, their masters!

I have to agree with David Harmon - I don't think that we can rule out a placebo effect for some pets. We know thanks to Pavlov's dogs, Clever Hans and many subsequent studies that animals can pick up even very subtle behavioural cues from people and this provides a mechanism by which the placebo effect can take place. Unfortunately 'In less cognitively flexible animals, where conditioning is more important than expectancy, the literature on placebo responses is relatively sparse.' (Can't get at the reference from this computer myself, but should prove an interesting read.)

And I'm not so sure the hope of a placebo effect is a worthy reason to take any course of treatment, or force one on poor unconsenting animals. Surely a confidence in legitimate medicine will provide the same effect on top of the results of the actual treatment?

-The Rev. Schmitt.

Actually there's some interesting research coming up which shows there may be more to acupuncture than placebo - not for some of the wilder medical claims, to be sure, but for the limited anaesthetic use that does seem to crop up in many studies.

The body's connective tissue, the fascia, turns out to have some curious properties, hitherto overlooked, which could account for it.



There's also a link between this and the Chinese martial arts that have been called "internal". The unusual relaxed power shown by genuine practitioners of these arts (and I have to enter the caveat that they are rare even in China, and aren't likely to be found at your local mall in the States) look like they're the result not of "qi", but of clever leverage and alignment, but the training of that leverage seems to be helped by using the body in a connected way that's "helped" by the already-connected nature of the body's "myofascial web" (as it has been called), and some of the feelings one gets while doing this kind of training might account for the feeling of the flow of a mysterious force called "qi" along "lines" that people widely report. (There are some quite rational people who are into martial arts who are investigating this stuff on a private mailing list I was a member of for a while - looking at it all from a point of view of mechanics, biology, etc.)

One quick experiment you can do to get something of a "qi" feeling: hold your hands in front of you and slightly apart as if you're feeling an "energy" between them, "play" with it gently, eventually you'll have a feeeling which subjectively, for all the world, feels like a kind of weird magnetic energy. Of course it's unlikely to be any such thing, but the cause of the feeling may lie in this fascia business.

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