Alternative Therapies Debunked or Denounced in 2009
by Christopher Wanjek
LiveScience Bad Medicine Columnist

The papers talked about concerning Reiki and Reflexology applicable to my paper.


The two largest scientific reviews of reiki, published last year in International Journal of Clinical Practice and in November 2009 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, reveal that reiki is not an effective treatment for any condition.


As summed up in a study of over 250 adults, published in November-December 2009 issue of the journal Heart & Lung, reflexology and other massage techniques had no effect for heart surgery patients on postoperative mood, pain, anxiety, hospital stay and several other measures. (Actually, anxiety was lower in the group not getting the foot massage.)

This study follows systematic reviews published in September 2009 in the Medical Journal of Australia and in June 2008 by Taiwanese researchers in the Journal of Advanced Nursing finding no evidence that reflexology helps any condition.

Now, the question that needs to be answered. Are there any flaws or weaknesses in these studies? Do these studies reflect good science?


On the Acu-punk’d blog, about acupuncture, Doc Hair has an article called “Qi, interrupted“.  This is an decent attempt to separate what Qi energy is and what it is not by cited using many cited sources.  At some point, I intend to do a similar comparison of Qi definitions for Qigong sources.

Edited: grammar error Nov-08-2009.
The conclusion from the blog entry:

These experts should realize that putting a needle in an arm to induce a feeling of flowing water from the elbow to the wrist will elicit some florid first-hand accounts regardless of our onerous attempts at explication.


Here are a couple of podcasts that have perspectives on historical medicine and scientific medicine.  They may be somewhat relevant as source material to my essay for medical perspective.

Naked Scientists Podcast — The History of Medicine (March 29, 2009).

The specific segment of intereset “Galenus of Pergamon and Roman Medicine” which is an interview of Vivian Nutton a Professor at University College London who studies the history of medicine. (Both audio and full text transcripts are available.)

Atheists Talk — Denialism and the Whitecoat Underground Episode #62 (March 22, 2009)

The entire episode is an interview with a physician, PalMD, who talks about how skepticism can be misused by fostering denialism.  He talks about what is denialism and how denialism is used in medicine and specifically in alternative medicine.

This content may not be much more than a footnote in the essay.

UPDATE: Also, Skeptics Guide to the Universe’s Steven Novella had an interesting point to make about a recent review of homeopathic studies done by the Cochrane Collaborative.  Specifically on the point of evidence based medicine versues science based medicine.  (Episode 195, April 15, 2009)  Episode Link,  Link to BBC article about homeopathy study review.

Harriet A. Hall, MD, wrote an interesting blog entry called called Puncturing the Acupuncture Myth, which was also recently published in Skeptic Magazine under the “SkeptDoc” column. The article is a overview of the history of acupuncture.  Also, Hall gives a good overview of how the current state of findings and problems with acupuncture research.

One very telling observation Dr. Hall makes in this blog post in explaining the state of science in China: “[…]acupuncture studies coming from China and other oriental countries are all positive – but then almost everything coming out of China is positive. It’s not culturally acceptable to publish negative results – researchers would lose face and their jobs.”

Dr. Hall’s main sources is a PowerPoint presentation by the late Dr. Robert Imrie, which is available online with sources.  (Firefox browser did not like the presentation, so I had to run it in Internet Explorer.)  This presentation has some good pictures, good points, is well sourced for a PowerPoint presentation, and is witty.

Steven Novella on the NeuroLogica blog looked at a recent study looking at In Vitro Fertilization and what effect acupuncture had on it.  In Vitro Fertilization is costly.  According to the blog, any method that could help the success of an In Vitro Fertilization would be a big win.

In summary, the blog basically states that acupuncture has no effect on In Vitro Fertilization.  Since the results, were not statistically significant to show if acupuncture was helpful or harmful to the live birth rate for IVF.

This fall, I ran into someone on the internet who is pursuing a Bachelors in Acupuncture as a field of study.  I immediately became curious about the issue of accredidation for this field.  The question on my mind, is this field accredited?

I did a little research and it turns out that it is.  The Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) accredits programs that have Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.  As of October 4th 2008, ACAOM accredit 51 Masters level programs and 3 Doctoral level programs.

Accreditation regulates school and makes them comply with guidelines that the accrediting organization sets up.  The U.S. Department of Education approve of the accrediting organizations.  The accrediting organizations in turn regulate the schools that they accredit.

The only thing that I noticed is that the programs tend to cater to college environments that are separate schools from the traditional big state college environment.  I currently have a neutral opinion on the programs.  I really do not have enough information to render any judgement about this.

Here is ACAOM’s required curriculum PDF on pages 22-27 (their page numbering).

The only comment I have concerning their curriculum is that it makes me uneasy the way they throw the word “theory” around.  A scientific theory needs a large body of evidence that it is the best explanation for the phenomenon that occurs to suggest that it is true. I am fairly ignorant about the evidence for these courses of study, but I would like to learn the truth: whatever it is.

Also, there are other organizations that accredit other similar health practices such as the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation and the Council on Chiropractic Education.

The Department of Education accredits these program.  As I find that I may not understand the accrediting process.

Initially, I wanted this to blog to be a place where I would write material and it would be good enough to publish for my thesis.  Alas, I have not published a single post.  I am discovering how ignorant I am on all the subjects.  There is nothing at all wrong with that, but I need to be writing something.

I will do baby step instead of the giant leaps I was initially expecting.  I will put more about what I have read and my current thought process, if I have some resources to back it up.

I am still amazed and intrigued by most of these topics.

I move this post to the About Page.