In the first part of this series, we discussed the power of belief as it relates to healthcare outcomes. In part two, we discussed the placebo effect in acupuncture, and the tendency for medical studies to attribute acupuncture’s effects to placebo only.
Now that we’ve laid that groundwork, it’s time to talk about why acupuncture is more than mere placebo–and how you can combine patient belief with proper treatment to achieve superior outcomes.
First, let’s talk placebo. When I posed the question whether acupuncture was just an elaborate placebo procedure, I got several passionate comments about how acupuncture works on animals, for example, and therefore cannot be the result of belief. I agree, and I’ll even do you one better. And I happen to have some of the best objective evidence available anywhere that acupuncture is NOT a mere placebo.
I collected this evidence in conjunction with a research paper I published with two co-authors in 2011, titled “Skin Conductance at 24 Source (Yuan) Acupoints in 8637 Patients: Influence of Age, Gender and Time of Day.” Don’t let the boring title shake you though; this research won first prize at the prestigious International Scientific Acupuncture and Meridian Symposium (isams).
Why did it win? Let me break it down for you.
We analyzed the data from over 8,000 AcuGraph exams to determine what sorts of things influence the meridian readings. As the title suggests, we looked at age, gender, time of day, and a few other factors. This work had never been attempted on anything near this scale, and we found some amazing things. Here are a few of our findings:
- Male meridian readings average higher than female meridian readings
- Males and females have significantly different “normal” readings for different meridians
- Males and females show significant differences in upper/lower balance and yin/yang balance, but not in left/right balance
- Readings decrease with age in both genders
I suppose none of this should be surprising to acupuncturists, who recognize the constitutional differences between women and men, but it’s nevertheless reassuring to have valid scientific evidence of what was previously just theory.
Now here’s the interesting part: Assuming acupuncture is real, valid, and not mere placebo, then an objective measurement like skin resistance balance at acupuncture points should respond to treatment and trend toward better balance, right? And this sort of objective measurement–because it’s based on electrical measurement and statistical analysis rather than mere reported symptoms–cannot be faked by a practitioner or misreported by a patient. Much like a blood test, the readings are the readings and you get what you get.
So, to investigate this supposition, we studied a population of over 3,700 patients during the course of their first five exams. We found that ALL of the following parameters show statistically significant improvement over the course of five visits for all age ranges and both genders:
- PIE score
- Yin/Yang balance
- Stability Score
- Number of Splits
This can’t be faked, and this can’t be placebo.
It isn’t just subjective reporting of improvement; it is objective proof. Acupuncture works, and we’ve got the evidence to show it.
I believe THAT, my friends, is why this research won first place in an international scientific competition.
So what does this mean for you? How do you use this information clinically? I have two thoughts.
- It’s important to actually use the objective evidence available to you. AcuGraph gives you insight you can’t get any other way. Traditional methods alone could never produce the evidence and results shown in our study. Combining AcuGraph with your other techniques will give you superior results.
- It’s important that you use objective evidence to reinforce patient belief. We started this series talking about the important role of patient belief in any healthcare procedure. With patient belief fully engaged, you have a much greater chance of success. Call it placebo if you want, but the effect is real and measurable. USE IT for your patient’s benefit.
And remember, the absolute best way to use objective evidence and engage patient belief is to SHOW GRAPH RESULTS.
AcuGraph is your key to superior outcomes.
Next time you read another study that concludes acupuncture is just a placebo, you’ll know they’re wrong. We’ve got the numbers to prove it.
Need some proof of YOUR practice?