What is the Proof?

“How does it work? What is the proof?”

These may be familiar questions for acupuncturists. However, many different answers are possible.

Different people view different types of information as a definitive proof or conclusive evidence. Anyone familiar with Monty Python’s skit about the witch trial can see why proof can be a slippery concept, and one that may be culturally determined to some extent.

(Also I just like Monty Python- geek colors showing).

For some, merely receiving acupuncture and feeling its clinical effect will constitute proof of its validity (the proof of the pudding is in the eating). This type of proof (does it accurately diagnose? and provide a successful treatment? there’s your proof) has been used for over 3,000 years in Chinese scholarship, with the enrichment of carefully recorded clinical observation and debate. This has provided us with an extremely valuable medicine and approach to human being’s wellness. However, the fact of its existence and clinical use is not enough proof for many “Western” minds. And we may learn some fantastic things about the human being by researching why acupuncture works.

Hence, for those in the fields of bioscience, the mechanism of action of acupuncture’s effect must absolutely be shown in order to constitute evidence of its actual effect. For private insurance companies and market analysts, the rise in popularity of acupuncture as a treatment option may provide proof of its validity. And yet for the scientific community at large, proof requires the combination of both understanding the mechanism of action of acupuncture and confirming the placebo-controlled clinical effect across large populations of patients. Here is a great article that outlines the challenges we face in defining and researching acupuncture, from BioMed Central, an excellent open-access, peer-reviewed journal: Acupuncture Awareness Week.

Consequently, in the field of TEAM, we are pursuing many avenues of research into different aspects of the medical interventions of Traditional East Asian Medicine. The field is moving forward rapidly at an international level while making original contributions to the fields of neuroscience and anesthesiology among others.

I will be adding pages over the following months to simply sum up our current best studies and “proof” in several categories of research:

  • Mechanism of Action
  • Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER)
  • Clinical Effectiveness
  • Cost Benefit Analysis
  • The Placebo / Sham Question
  • Current Challenges (of which there are many)

Investigating our premises must always take priority- and I hope to use this website to show how we are investigating the basic premises of concepts of health and disease through the lens of TEAM research.

So, to get to the point, I have found no particular phrase that entails the “proof” of acupuncture’s effect or efficacy. Indeed, everyone interprets this differently, and we will be publishing a series of video interviews with leading researchers to give you some professional answers to these questions, although those too will differ from each other. I will let you explore this site to find out a little more about the answers to these questions on your own. My motive is not to create confusion; rather, I would like to be as clear as possible. Because we have many theories of the mechanisms of action currently in play, I must defer to your judgement about how this information may be appropriately interpreted.

Many experienced acupuncturists prefer to avoid these questions altogether, as they are deemed non-essential to the actual process of receiving acupuncture and “getting better.” But we are embarking upon an exploration of the biological pathways used by acupuncture, and hopefully we will be able to give some detailed answers that help to settle these questions without disturbing the deeper mysteries of how healing actually occurs.


My personal interpretation of an acupuncture treatment, and for me a high level of personal proof:

    PLUS  kittyaccupuncture   EQUALS     AND ULTIMATELY  

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