General Question

PupnTaco's avatar

Would you try acupuncture if you didn't believe in it?

Asked by PupnTaco (13860points) May 7th, 2009 from iPhone

I’m interested what other skeptics or science- & reason-based people would do. I suffer from tinnitus 24/7 and my wife thinks I’ve given up trying to cure it. She convinced me to try acupuncture and I’m going, even though I think it’s quackery of the highest order.

I’m not asking for anyone to convince me that chi exists, can be measured or demonstrated following the scientific process.

I’m asking how far you’d go to keep the peace in a relationship.

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57 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

Dave id look at it like this. What is the worst that will happen? It wont work and you wasted some time with the apt and avoided a possible argument with your SO. Best case scenario it works and your healed. Fuck it, just go.

who knows you might just walk out of there a believer :P

augustlan's avatar

I’d go if I’d tried everything else without success. Not to prevent an argument, but in desperation. Even though I was a non-believer, I could still hope to hell I’d be proven wrong!

knitfroggy's avatar

Go into it with an open mind. I believe a lot of this type of healing depends on your mind set. I used to wear a magnetic bracelet on my wrist to help with pain. My sister would always tell me it was not really helping me-I just thought it was helping. I told her I didn’t care if it was in my mind or not, but the magnetic bracelet made my wrist feel better. So maybe if you think the acupuncture will work it will. It’s worth a try.

Jeruba's avatar

I think it’s hocus-pocus too, even though a lot of former skeptics seem to have been won over. I keep thinking I will, for this or that, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. If you’ve decided to go, great—can’t wait to hear your conclusions.

augustlan's avatar

PS: I’d probably be more inclined to try acupressure… it just seems more valid to me.

Dog's avatar

There is so much in life we do not know.

I remember a time when the thought of eating raw fish sounded as appealing as getting a root canal. But now it is my favorite food.

Life is about trying new things, experimenting and being open to new experiences.

No harm no foul- I would try it!

AstroChuck's avatar

No, but not because I don’t believe in it but because I believe in pain, and needles in my body sounds painful to me.

kevbo's avatar

2nd on the open mind. Really, what are you losing by giving it a shot?

rooeytoo's avatar

Years ago I went to stop smoking, it didn’t work for that, but I felt an overall improved sense of well being. It has been around a lot longer than any form of Western medicine.

I had it done to an akita who was literally withering and dying before my eyes. He had been hit by a car as a pup and not properly taken care of for it. So he was in extreme pain at all times. He had several sessions of accupuncture because I had tried everything else to no avail. The vet used pins with gold tips and the gold stayed in to stimulate even after the needles were removed. It was like a miracle, his improvement was just unbelievable, he lived to a ripe old age.

I think this is interesting because he had no mental baggage working for or against the treatments and they worked when nothing else did.

YARNLADY's avatar

If you don’t have a strong aversion to it, I don’t see why not try it. I would, if it was suggested for an ailment I had. My Hubby has tinnitis also, and he has been doing a lot of study on it and is currently taking magnesium and ginko biloba supplements with the permission of his doctor.

Fyrius's avatar

Nobody sticks needles into me unless I’m certain it will have a worthwhile effect.
(doesn’t like needles)

oratio's avatar

I don’t think it’s mumbo-jumbo. Forget about chi and all that crap. Pain and pleasure is nothing but nerves and nerve joint stimulation. It seems to me that this is what acupuncture do, stimulate or block. I don’t know much about it but it is my impression that it is supported by today’s medicine. Stay sceptic, it is a good quality. But give it a try. You only die once.

MrsNash's avatar

How certain are you that your upcoming forced visit for acupunture will net no positive results?

Supacase's avatar

Sure. I don’t see what it would hurt and it might help. If nothing else, it would be an interesting experience.

May2689's avatar

I’ve been wanting to try acupuncture forever…take the chance! If you discover that it was just a waste of time, well…at least you tried

casheroo's avatar

I think it’s worth a shot, out of desperation.

susanc's avatar

As you said, this isn’t about whether acupuncture works or not, but whether the power balance in your relationship will be damaged.

The obvious answer: To hell with healing. Never, never try anything you don’t understand just to please someone who loves you desperately.

ccbatx's avatar

If you didn’t believe in it, I wouldn’t think you would actually try it, unless you don’t believe in it because of a past experience.

tinyfaery's avatar

Do it. How can you not “believe” in something that has worked for centuries? I’ve used it for menstrual problems and digestive problems, and the results were fab.

3or4monsters's avatar

Our minds are fascinating things. That said, if you are convinced it’s bullshit and that it won’t work, chances are…. well, mind over matter. There’s a good chance it won’t work. It could be anything from amplifying your pain by concentrating on how much it’s not working (if you focus on pain, it DOES get worse!), to tensing up slightly at the locations where the needles are inserted in a way that someone who’s mentally accepting of the work would not, thereby interrupting the work.

I’d say give it a shot if you’re desperate, but at the same time, if you’re convinced beyond any doubt that it’s bogus, save your money and don’t waste the acupuncturist’s time.

(Do I believe that it works? I believe that for every problem there are a multitude of solutions, and that acupuncture works fantastically for some of them, but might be a square peg for a round hole on others. I feel the same way about people who think chiropractics, massage, or yoga will, by themselves, solve every problem in every person, without knowing all the other factors of a person’s life that could render the treatment ineffective.)

Dorkgirl's avatar

Trying something like acupuncture is a “no harm, no foul”. If you walk out with your condition improved, Yippee! If not, then you gave it a shot and can move on.
I tried it after my doctor diagnosed bursitis in my shoulder. He said the only treatment was anti-inflamatory meds (forever). I did not really like that thought, so figured I’d try acupunctue. After the first treatment, shoulder was better. By 3rd no pain and mobility returned. After 10 years no recurrence. I did not necessarily “believe” in it, but figured it certainly couldn’t make things any worse.

oratio's avatar

Do it for the fun of trying something new. And why not just humor your girlfriend. That’s investing in the relationship I would say. But what do I know.

hearkat's avatar

As an Audiologist who’s had tinnitus my whole life… I have encountered no empirical evidence that acupuncture works to relieve tinnitus. With that being said, if my tinnitus were to get to the point that it became disruptive to my life, I’d probably try anything. (See this thread for more on my views of tinnitus and treatment options).

AND… if my tinnitus were disruptive to my life and I were blessed enough to have someone that cared enough about me to investigate treatment options (or even if it was just because they were tired of hearing me complain), I’d appreciate their concern and efforts and respect that by giving it a try (assuming there was truly nothing to lose but a couple hours of my time).

ALSO… whenever I look into “Alternative” Medicines in general, Acupuncture seems to be the only one that is found to be effective on a consistent basis… but again, I have never heard that in the case of tinnitus; usually for chronic pain and such.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I did. After several years of abusing prescription pain meds and not getting much relief from weekly massage I was desperate for something and acupuncture delivered. I have no idea what chi is but I now understand nerve endings, nerve routes. No more meds :D

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Well… I don’t think I would claim to not believe in something before I actually tested it out. I mean, it’s not like belief or disbelief in god – because there’s no real way to prove it. But as soon as those needles are poked into your skin, you’re going to know, for a fact, whether or not it works.

So, I would try it – not to keep the peace in a relationship, but because it may actually work. Never know until you try it, and as others have pointed out, you have nothing to lose.

Let everyone know how it goes, if you will? I’m curious to see if it works for you. :)

PupnTaco's avatar

I’m going on Tuesday, I’ll report back on the state of my unobservable and undocumented chi.

El_Cadejo's avatar

<is going to lol when dave comes back raving about how great it was>

PupnTaco's avatar

Don’t hold your breath. LOL

wundayatta's avatar

Would you go get your appendix removed if you had appendicitis but you didn’t believe in surgery? There’s evidence to support the value of acupuncture. As everyone says, it’s non-invasive, so how can it hurt?

I’ve had it done on a number of occasions. I’ve seen people lose a lot of weight using it and a fairly extreme diet. I’ve had backaches helped. I’ve had foot pain helped with it. I have, embarrassingly enough, even been given an erection through acupuncture (we were trying to have a baby, but I don’t think the acupuncturist quite understood that the problem was structural (no vas deferens), not performance related). She claimed they could grow me new tubing, but that didn’t work. I still think there was a translation problem (she was Chinese).

The needles are very small – diameter-wise, and they barely prick your skin. It’s nothing like getting a shot. You can feel the energy (chi) flowing around your body. Sometimes it feels like electrical shocks; sometimes like a rush or a chill; sometimes a burning, and I’m sure there are many other feelings. The first time I felt it, I realized I’d been feeling it all my life, most notably when in a band concert, and we reached the high point of the music, and I felt this rush coming up my back and right through my cheeks and out of my head. It was wonderful. It turns out, it was also chi. Now I can make chi happen just by thinking about it. But most people can, I think. If you imagine your hands, as if air was rushing through them, you’d probably start to feel them tingling. That’s another form of chi. Hands and feet are easiest.

PupnTaco's avatar

What evidence there is supports the position that acupuncture is no more effective than a placebo. In fact, it seems to be nothing more than a vehicle for suggestion and positive thinking.

If positive thinking (aka wishing) could cure my tinnitus, I’d be enjoying blissful silence right now instead of this maddening shrill whine.


El_Cadejo's avatar

Now now dave, you’ll get no where with that attitude. Why not just go into it open minded. If it works it works if not oh well whats next? Thats the same way i go into any treatment i’ve tried. Besides the way i look at it even if it is a placebo and its all in my head the whole time, fuck it, im cured.

rooeytoo's avatar

Actually I would love to be cured by a placebo, no lingering after effects for my body to deal with as is often the case with drugs.

PupnTaco's avatar

If I believed in placeboes then I’d have to believe in Mormon magic underwear, the tooth fairy, and Jesus. Next would come “reality” shows and my whole world would shortly collapse.

Anyway, off I go to the chi master.

PupnTaco's avatar

OK that was stupid. $30 for the visit and $50 for the initial consult that included questions like “what season did your tinnitus start” and “in the summer, do you sleep with the windows open?”

He put needles in my head, hands, and feet, then shone a heatlamp on my feet. Like the kind that keeps the French fries warm. Instructed me to breathe and left me alone for 30 minutes.

Said he wants me to come back twelve times.

At what cost do I keep the peace? I can think of much better ways to spend $400. Like on bills, maybe.

And to the obvious, no I didn’t feel anything as I was laying there – certainly no change in the tinnitus. No warm energy, no flowing chi, no angels, no fairies.


rooeytoo's avatar

@PupnTaco – sorry it didn’t help, maybe just a couple more trys before you call it a no go!

I agree the tooth fairy and jesus are a little hard to swallow but mormon magic underwear, now you are destroying my belief system.

J/k – what is mormon magic underwear?????

ps love your t shirts.

oratio's avatar

Ah well, you’ve made an effort, tried something, been there and done it.
Now, you make her go sky diving.

PupnTaco's avatar

@oratio: Skydiving? Yikes!!

@rooeytoo: thanks :)

rooeytoo's avatar

omg, I had no idea they wore special underwear. All I knew about Mormons is that when I was a kid in DC in the 60’s you could go to their restaurant chain and tell them you were a starving Mormon they would feed you. There were a lot of starving Mormons around I tell you. Then when I moved to Sydney the young men would be standing around the parks doing their missionary work trying to convert the heathen aussies.

Religions make so much sense to me.

Critter38's avatar

Park et al. reviewed the effectiveness of acupuncture for tinnitus back in 2000 and found no difference between acupuncture and placebo in double blind trials. What shits me is that if a medical doctor knew that drug X was ineffective against a medical condition other than as a placebo (Which any medical practitioner should know about any and every treatment they prescribe), they would be seen as unethical in continuing to prescribe the drug as a treatment. Perhaps such ethical considerations are considered too “closed minded” when you practice alternative medicine.

Park J, White AR, Ernst E. Efficacy of acupuncture as a
treatment for tinnitus. A systematic review. Arch Otolaryngol
Head Neck Surg 2000;126:489–92

If a non-exotic medical intervention was equally costly and offered such weak evidence for a positive result we can only hope it would have been discarded without fanfare years ago.

So I’d say no on ethical grounds. I have an ethical problem with voluntarily giving financial support to the propagation of unsubstantiated medical treatments.

Simon Singh write a relevant article about acupuncture here

Also there was a review of tinnitus treatments written up here. Often good to be armed with such knowledge when approaching your GP about possible treatment options.

Title: Tinnitus
Author(s): Mcferran DJ, Phillips JS
Source: JOURNAL OF LARYNGOLOGY AND OTOLOGY Volume: 121 Issue: 3 Pages: 201–208 Published: MAR 2007
Times Cited: 3

If you can’t get a hold of it (eg. you don’t have access to scientific journals) chuck me a private note and I can send you a pdf.

oratio's avatar

@Critter38 I don’t know what to think. I have a similar feeling about hypnosis as a form of anesthesia.

It doesn’t seem to be as black and white as that. Acupuncture is accepted by many western countries governments as a viable treatment for some conditions, and used by many countries hospitals and medical practice. Their studies seem to have has shown to convince legislation to allow this practice, though it’s not the chinese diagnose system used or the chinese explanation of effect.

But I agree with your sentiments about that. I would not consider using it, other than for the hell of it.

I am also not sure I believe you can make people do things during hypnosis they don’t remember, but I have spoken to one guy who experienced that. It could be that deep hypnosis is just another word for sleep walking.

Critter38's avatar

Sweden for example allows state funded health care providers to use acupuncture. I remember in Australia that some private health insurance plans listed alternative medicines as part of some policies options. But one has to be careful drawing conclusions from such outcomes.

If double blind controlled replicated studies, the best we have, have trouble finding benefits for acupuncture against placebo controls for the vast majority of cures that are being claimed for this treatment, then governments are using tax payer provided funding to support medical treatments which are not effective beyond placebo. If they were found to be subsidizing a major pharmaceutical drug which worked to a similarly limited degree, claims of corruption would be rife.

So, I agree.. the same issue raises questions in my head. I have access to the medical literature and I don’t see what medical grounds governments are basing these decisions on…which leads me to conclude that these aren’t medical decisions, but popularity decisions.

If people want governments to subsidize or register acupuncture clinics then publicly elected governments will do so. If people pay for private health cover and they want this cover to extend to acupuncture, then private health providers will gladly make a package which includes the option for people to buy. In my opinion, especially in the government case, this is not a smart road to go down.

Oh and just to clarify, I actually think that randomly sticking needles in the body may in fact cause hormone release due to activating pain/skin sensors, which may in fact result in temporary pain reduction. The problem I have is that so rarely is acupuncture sold on so mundane a basis, when mundane is all I’ve seen supportive evidence for.

oratio's avatar

@Critter38 Maybe. I really don’t think swedish medicine accepts alternative forms of therapy by popular demand. That’s seems very far from my experience of the swedish system, but I can’t guarantee it. That has never been a voting issue, and we don’t really have a lobby culture. There are lobbyists trying to influence our politicians. Often they are americans trying to make them come down on copyright piracy.

I haven’t seen different trials, and I am undecided about the true effectiveness of acupuncture. Personally I feel it’s logically possible to influence nerve clusters with tools or pressure. It’s enough to sleep on the arm for it to go numb. Phantom pains in the body might have to do with nerves, the brain itself, psychological or a combination.

I don’t believe in acupunture, and I don’t write it off. Just keeping an eye on it from the side.

Critter38's avatar

I hope you’re right. Perhaps instead of popularity I could phrase it as a too loose requirement for scientific evidence before popular treatments are provided state support or recognition…whatever the reason it doesn’t seem to be correlated with the strength of scientific support.

On a similar note, electromagnetic hypersensitivity is an officially recognised functional impairment here (I live in Sweden too). Once again, no scientific evidence, but policy recognition nonetheless. I simply don’t understand what is gained by so doing, but it does suggest that other considerations are being made that extend far beyond concern for evidence for the complaint or the treatment efficacy.

Anyways, I agree with your agnosticism with regards to acupuncture. But if science has had this much trouble finding a clear pattern for this long, I won’t hold my breath.

by the way I sincerely love Sweden, wonderful place…just minor quirks in an admirable and wonderful nation

oratio's avatar

@Critter38 You have a point there.

Mm, Electromagnetic hypersensitivity, that is questionable. I am not exactly sure what to think there either. Sure, we live in a society full of EMF, strong and weak, and a sea of all kinds of EM radiation.

I met a dutch couple who were both hypersensitive, and they couldn’t sleep in a normal hotel room, even with everything switched off. In regards to current scientific knowledge, this is impossible. I wonder if something of an inverted placebo in the works here. That you strongly believe that you are allergic against EMF’s and develop symptoms.

I think what’s important is that people get help for problems. If it works for them, fine. I do think though, as well as you, that standard medicine should be used first and most.

Critter38's avatar

You’re spot on. There is an inverted placebo effect..there’s even a word for it,

“Nocebo” was coined to refer to the unpleasant side effects people report when given a dummy inert drug. It’s a great word!

For interest here’s the abstract of a recent review of electromagnetic hypersensitivity.


Radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure and non-specific symptoms of ill health: A systematic review

Martin Röösli
Environmental Research
Volume 107, Issue 2, June 2008, Pages 277–287


This article is a systematic review of whether everyday exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) causes symptoms, and whether some individuals are able to detect low-level RF-EMF (below the ICNIRP [International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection] guidelines). Peer-reviewed articles published before August 2007 were identified by means of a systematic literature search. Meta-analytic techniques were used to pool the results from studies investigating the ability to discriminate active from sham RF-EMF exposure. RF-EMF discrimination was investigated in seven studies including a total of 182 self-declared electromagnetic hypersensitive (EHS) individuals and 332 non-EHS individuals. The pooled correct field detection rate was 4.2% better than expected by chance (95% CI: −2.1 to 10.5). There was no evidence that EHS individuals could detect presence or absence of RF-EMF better than other persons. There was little evidence that short-term exposure to a mobile phone or base station causes symptoms based on the results of eight randomized trials investigating 194 EHS and 346 non-EHS individuals in a laboratory. Some of the trials provided evidence for the occurrence of nocebo effects. In population based studies an association between symptoms and exposure to RF-EMF in the everyday environment was repeatedly observed. This review showed that the large majority of individuals who claims to be able to detect low level RF-EMF are not able to do so under double-blind conditions. If such individuals exist, they represent a small minority and have not been identified yet. The available observational studies do not allow differentiating between biophysical from EMF and nocebo effects.

oratio's avatar

@Critter38 Very interesting. Seven studies is a bunch. Checked him out. He has published several very interesting studies and articles. Thank you.

Critter38's avatar

No worries!

Jeruba's avatar

@PupnTaco, thanks for your report. I was actually hoping that you would experience some relief, not just for your own comfort but because I would genuinely like to see some evidence in favor of things I’m skeptical about. That would mean things are better than I think they are.

PupnTaco's avatar

I wish it were so. I wound up going twice and giving up – a total waste of time and money. Thanks for all the info, everyone!

augustlan's avatar

Well, dang. I’m sorry it wasn’t the magic bullet for you, Dave. That would have been nice.

YARNLADY's avatar

Here’s a new one I read about. Do other people experience ‘rug shocks’, but not you? Do appliances and computers go wonky when you’re around? Maybe you have the ‘healing’ power. Put your hands over the ears of the tinnitus sufferer in your family for five minutes every morning and every night. It works better than acupuncture!
I’m sorry I didn’t keep the source on this one. I have paraphrased, but you get the idea

hearkat's avatar

Actually, I have the opposite… I experience way more rug shocks than most people, and have the ‘magic touch’ with gizmos and gadgets, street lights often flicker when I pass, AND my ears ring constantly. So what could that mean?

augustlan's avatar

@hearkat You are obviously full of magic. ;)

YARNLADY's avatar

@hearkat I guess it means you even have it spilling out your ears, and that’s the sound you hear. Hubby has the same thing. He’s the trouble shooter at his office, and when gets to the office where they need help, everything starts working again all by itself. He hears a high pitched eeeeeeee sound all day and night.

hearkat's avatar

@augustlan and @YARNLADY:
Hmmmm… if only I could use it to truly heal, or at least to improve my love-life. :-/

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