Alternative MedicineAnti-Science

Don’t Poke Me With That

I have been having backaches for a week, and hearing my whines, a well-meaning friend recommended the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) called Acupuncture.

Acupuncture originated from China and can be traced back for at least 2,500 years. In TCM, it is believed that there are patterns of energy flow (Qi) throughout the body that are essential for health. Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease. Acupuncture is used to correct these “disruptions” at identifiable points close to the skin.

Growing up in South East Asia, almost everyone I know have used/is still using TCM to treat everything from fevers to fertility. It seems like even our government endorses it. On the Ministry of Health website, TCM practitioners are listed alongside doctors, nurses and pharmacists as ‘Healthcare Professionals’.

Feeling somewhat placated by the government, I made an appointment at the recommended clinic.

The clinic was situated at the posh part of town, it looked clean and distinguished with many certificates adorning the walls, just like a doctor’s office. A nurse took down my particulars and I was shown into the room.

The “doctor” was a man who looked to be in his late fifties, wearing a white doctor’s coat, looking deceptively like a real doctor. However, it became apparent that he was not one when I was told to stick my tongue out for my diagnosis.

After checking my pulse, he told me that I have insomnia, back and neck aches (this I know), because my Qi was out of balance (this, I do not know). I was given a hospital gown to change into and was told to lie on the comfortable clinic bed.

Soon, needles were slowly placed into my back. Each felt like a sting from little angry red ants. Following the mini stabbing, short bursts of electric pulses were sent to my problematic areas via the needles. This is called Electroacupuncture.

It was over after twenty uncomfortable minutes, and just like that my bad Qi was gone. As he was prescribing a cocktail of herbs for me to take as medication, he also brought up the “fact” that acupuncture could also be used to help in weight loss. He assured me that his patients had high success rate.

Instead of being offended at indirectly being called fat, I asked him how would acupuncture fix my “weight problem”.

According to him acupuncture would help in making it easier to lose weight and maintain that loss if I was willing to change my lifestyle (since acupuncture is an adjunct therapy). He’ll insert needles into specific points on my body and my ears to release endorphins, which will make it easier to deal with stress.

Less stress = Happier life = No trigger for overeating/binging on fattening foods.

Hah. If only it was that simple.

There are still no concrete evidence that Acupuncture works. Most of the positive results reported for acupuncture are too small to be of clinical relevance and may be the result of inadequate experimental blinding, or can be explained by placebo effects.

Researchers have also pointed out the difficulty in designing an adequate scientific control for any placebo effect acupuncture might have due to its invasiveness.

Personally, it has been a week, and my back is still aching. According to my friend though, the treatment did not work because I had no faith in it.

Oh Dr. Faith, you heal all wounds.

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Mox is a 22 year old student, aspiring writer, and a closet atheist. She lives in the exotic East where superstition runs rampant. She enjoys movies and books like everyone else. One of her favorite things in the world is saying outrageous things to her mother and seeing the look of horror on her face. Hilarious.


  1. May 22, 2012 at 10:10 am —

    You are much more willing than I am to give TCM a chance.

    I happen to be deployed in a military operation. Services depend on different countries and, incidentally, medical care is handled by China in our area.

    Sure enough, the Chinese hospital regularly prescribes herbal remedies or more than doubtful efficacy. What they don’t offer is acupuncture. Why not? Because the Chinese chain of command itself declared acupuncture was not a valid treatment for any ailments.

    They used to try treating people with acupuncture, not long ago. In a military hospital that is supposed to treat combat casualties. I am grateful I have never had to witness someone bleeding from a gunshot being treated for the pain with magical needles. I am glad no one has tried to treat an infected wound by “balancing Qui” throughout the body.

    The Chinese themselves have banned acupuncture from their own serious hospitals. I, for my part, refuse any medical treatment from anyone who would give any credit to acupuncture, homeopathy or similar practices.

    These Chinese guys still try their herbal remedies, however, and I have seen someone taking two full months to recover from a mild leg condition, thanks to a mix of herbs that did absolutely nothing for him except keeping him busy taking them, while his body struggled to heal itself.

    If I get shot I will take my chances with a different hospital, even if it takes longer to evacuate me there. Those guys better keep their herbs and needles away from me.

    I admire your patience with those guys. I am not going to give them even one chance to poke at me with their needles… and their own superiors seem to agree with me, at least in part.

  2. June 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm —

    Thank you. I did not know that they used TCM in hospitals, what’s more a military hospital! That is extremely disconcerting and terrible.

    When my friend was diagnosed with cancer, he tried using TCM to cure it (which obviously did not work) and only after that failure, did he tried chemotherapy (which cured him). When I asked, he claims that he much rather trust TCM than “Western” medicine because western medicine doesn’t cure the illness, it only stops the symptoms. I was dumbfounded! Literally no words to reply.

    I hope you stay safe and away from any injuries so the possibility of getting poke with needles or drowned in herbs is absolutely zero. LOL

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