Popular Science

Why it’s so hard to figure out if acupuncture actually works

Should you stick a needle in it?
acupuncture model

Researchers have been debating whether acupuncture has any efficacy for decades.

Thunder Child via Flickr

Does medicine have a bias against acupuncture?

That's the verdict of a paper (and an accompanying commentary) published earlier this week in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. While there’s still no medical consensus on acupuncture, and most reputable medical organizations do not support its use for arthritic knee pain, the authors' critique lends interesting insight into the process by which medical procedures are accepted—and which are excluded.

How does alternative medicine get to be plain-old medicine?

Led by Stephen Birch of Kristiania University College in Norway, the researchers behind the new study allege that the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which details recommended treatments for given ailments, holds acupuncture to a higher standard than it does traditional medical modalities.

If all of the treatments that NICE recommend for knee arthritis—including weight loss and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs like ibuprofen—had to

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