I’m back, having spent most of last week at the Society for Acupuncture Research 2010 International Conference. All I can say is WOW!
This year’s conference title was: Translational Research In Acupuncture: Bridging Science, Practice & Community. I’ll explain more about that title in a minute, but first I need to explain about acupuncture research in general. The way I see it, there are really two questions asked by research studies into acupuncture:
1. DOES acupuncture work?
2. HOW does acupuncture work?
The first question is usually investigated through controlled patient trials, comparing acupuncture to other treatments in an effort to determine what works best. Often, these studies also attempt to compare “real” acupuncture with “fake” acupuncture, which is problematic because there is really no consensus on what constitutes “fake” acupuncture. But despite the problems, many of these studies have shown that acupuncture does indeed work, and often works better than usual care for improving the patient’s symptoms.
The question of HOW acupuncture works is another matter. Current investigations use a variety of brain imaging tools, biochemical investigations, neurological interventions, and even psychological evaluations to search out the elusive mechanism that will finally explain exactly how acupuncture gives the results it does. Though lots of tantalizing tidbits have been uncovered, the full explanation is still elusive. We just don’t know the exact mechanism of acupuncture.
And this brings us to the title of the conference. Much of the research has focused on the Science behind acupuncture, without really changing the Practice of acupuncture. In other words, the researchers toil away, making discoveries and publishing studies, while the practitioners keep doing what they’ve always done, the way they’ve always done it, and the acupuncture Community continues unchanged.
But research is changing. There’s a new focus on Translational research; taking the research from the lab, to the clinic, and ultimately to the community. I saw some of it at the conference, and look forward to seeing more.
Best of all, I met some of the greatest minds in acupuncture research–and made plans for some great research projects of our own. I’ll tell you details as they are available.
Meanwhile, if you’re interested in the latest scientific research in acupuncture, I highly recommend you check out the Society for Acupuncture Research. I’m glad I did.