MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Acupuncture Today is a much-read online publication for people interested in acupuncture. It informs us that Chinese medicine is quite complex and can be difficult for some people to comprehend. This is because TCM is based, at least in part, on the Daoist belief that we live in a universe in which everything is interconnected. What happens to one part of the body affects every other part of the body. The mind and body are not viewed separately, but as part of an energetic system. Similarly, organs and organ systems are viewed as interconnected structures that work together to keep the body functioning.

To me, this sounds suspiciously woolly. Do they think that conventional healthcare professionals view the various body-parts as separate entities? Do they feel that conventional practitioners see the mind entirely separate from the body? Do they believe others fail to realize that what affects the brain does not affect the rest of the body? These common preconceptions have always puzzled me. Intrigued, I read on.

Elsewhere we learn that Acupuncture Today and acupuncturetoday.com are the only complete news sources in the profession and we don’t take this honor lightly. The acupuncture and Oriental medicine profession is a blend of ancient traditions, healing styles and modern therapies. We provide content that is comprehensive enough to appeal to each of the profession’s diverse groups. In addition, we provide a complete suite of additional products including newsletters, calendars and classifieds that provide our advertisers with the contextual platform they need to communicate with our readers, their customers.

Acupuncture Today seems to reflect a lot of what many acupuncturists want to hear – and thus it might provide us with an important insight into the mind-set of acupuncturists. On their website, I found an article which fascinated me:

START OF QUOTE

A more efficient method for diagnosis and treatment by remote medical dowsing has been found and used in acupuncture with great success. The procedure involves a pendulum, a picture of the patient, an anatomy book, a steel pointer, and a very thin bamboo pointer.

Being a dentist, orthodontist, acupuncturist and dowser, I like to take the liberty of treating a person affected with lockjaw or temporal-mandibular joint ailments via remote dowsing…

…When the mandible cannot open due to a spasm, the chief symptom is pain. Until energy is restored, the muscle cannot lengthen and pain cannot be eliminated. Acupuncture is a good way to correct this condition without the use of a dental appliance. Dentists specializing in treating TMJ use a computerized equipment scan (electrosonography), surface electromyography and the myomonitor to relax the muscles.

Another procedure to treat TMJ is using dowsing. At this point, I will talk about dowsing procedures and information needed to successfully carry out the procedures. Remote dowsing requires the use of the pendulum, a slender bamboo pointer, an anatomy book, a picture of the patient and a steel pointer.

To treat a TMJ patient, the picture of the patient is dowsed holding a pendulum in the right hand while the left hand uses a bamboo pointer to touch the closing and opening muscles individually in the anatomy book. The closing muscles will have good energy (as evidenced by the circular movement of the pendulum) while the lower head of the lateral pterygoid will have no energy (as evidenced by little or no movement of the pendulum). Having advance information on TMJ acupuncture points helps, but these points will have to be tested if needling will supply energy. Master Tong has suggested a point between Liver 2 and Liver 3. I find Spleen 2, a distal point related to the lower head of the lateral pterygoid, to be more effective. This can be checked by having the patient hold the point of the steel pointer so it touches Spleen 2 on the large toe.

To treat a TMJ patient, the picture of the patient is dowsed holding a pendulum in the right hand while the left hand uses a bamboo pointer to touch the closing and opening muscles individually in the anatomy book. The closing muscles will have good energy (as evidenced by the circular movement of the pendulum) while the lower head of the lateral pterygoid will have no energy (as evidenced by little or no movement of the pendulum). Having advance information on TMJ acupuncture points helps, but these points will have to be tested if needling will supply energy. Master Tong has suggested a point between Liver 2 and Liver 3. I find Spleen 2, a distal point related to the lower head of the lateral pterygoid, to be more effective. This can be checked by having the patient hold the point of the steel pointer so it touches Spleen 2 on the large toe.

By dowsing the picture of the patient with the right hand and using a bamboo pointer to touch the lower head of the pterygoid muscle in the anatomy book with the left hand, it will be evident by the circular movement of the pendulum that these muscles now have good energy. This is done before the needle is inserted. In this manner all points can be checked for ailments such as TMJ, stroke, backaches, and neck and shoulder problems before needling. When the needles are placed and after the needling procedure, energy can be checked using the pendulum. By being very accurate on the location of acupuncture points, less treatments will be needed to obtain results. Another point is Small Intestine 19, a local point which is also very effective. Good results are obtained by careful and accurate needling. Therefore, the number of visits are few…

Dowsing is a diagnostic aid that has been used for other situations and can be very helpful to acupuncturists. In conclusion, I feel that remote dowsing is a great approach to diagnosis and treatment.

END OF QUOTE

If I had not seen alternative practitioners doing this procedure with my own eyes, I might have thought the article is a hoax. Sadly, this is the ‘real world’ of alternative medicine.

I tried to find some acupuncturists who had objected to this intense nonsense, but I was not successful in this endeavour. The article was published 6 years ago (no, not on 1 April!), yet so far, nobody has objected.

I have also tried to see whether articles promoting quackery of this nature are rare exceptions in the realm of acupuncture, or whether they are regular occurrences. My impression is that the latter is the case.

What can be concluded from all this?

In a previous post about quackery in chiropractic, I have argued that the tolerance of quackery must be one of the most important hallmarks of a quack profession. As I still believe this to be true, I have to ask to which extend THE TOLERANCE OF SUCH EXTREME QUACKERY MAKES ACUPUNCTURISTS QUACKS?

[I would be most interested to have my readers’ views on this question]

13 Responses to Does the tolerance of extreme quackery make acupuncturists quacks?

  • I find it heartening to hear now that not only homeopaths have a sense of humour, but acupuncturists too.This seems to be from the Spike Milligan end of things.
    ‘Remote dowsing’ for humans is something I’d never encountered before. I suppose the desperate apologists will try the lame excuse ‘Oh well, there are quacks in every field’. It reminds me of the Ben Goldacre experiment where one is able to use ‘anti-toxin footpads’ to draw ‘toxins’ from a china teacup.
    It suggests to me an experiment I’d like to try which I’ll call ‘Remote laughing’. Or ‘La Fing’ if it makes it sound more sort of ‘Chinese-y’. Is that a bit racist? I’ve no doubt we can leave it to EUnicorn to inform Plod.
    Simply send me a photograph of yourself, and I will tell it a joke. I will then use a pointer and jab it towards the mouth of the photograph subject. Then you-wherever you are-will phone me and tell me if you laughed. To keep it within the realms of science, I won’t tell you at what time I’ll be comedy jabbing. It could be any time, so be prepared to have a cackling fit maybe in the middle of a vital business meeting, or a passionate sex session with a new partner. Or maybe in the middle of an especially intellectual play at the theatre. It will be especially ‘science-y’ of course if you can phone me and tell me the joke that I sent by the 1-hour old ancient art of ‘La Fing’. In fact maybe that’s the name I’ll adopt.

  • Elsewhere such practices are styled Fi Shi.

  • It never ceases to amaze me just how many people believe dowsing is a well evidenced practice outside medicine. It’s as if all the careful, blinded scientific tests of dowsers’ inability to detect water, oil and metals had never been done. Have so many people really never heard of the ideomotor effect, which explains dowsing with sticks and pendulums, as well as ouija boards and similar nonsense. Remote dowsing with people’s photos is big business for all kinds of woo activities.

    It’s not only acupuncturists who use ‘medical’ dowsing: some homeopaths also use the approach and some ‘healers’ use dowsing to treat people. So my answer to the question whether the tolerance of such extreme quackery makes acupuncturists quacks has to be that the tolerance of (whatever form of) dowsing by anyone as other than contemptible pseudoscience defines that person as a gullible, credulous, self-deluded fool. Anyone who practises dowsing in whatever shape or form in return for payment is more than a fool; he or she is an unscrupulous thief.

    • Can homeopaths detect homeopathic medicines by dowsing? A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J R Soc Med. 2002:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1279512/

      “Dowsing is a method of problem-solving that uses a motor automatism, amplified through a pendulum or similar device. In a homeopathic context, it is used as an aid to prescribing and as a tool to identify miasm or toxin load.

      The dowsers who took part in this study use dowsing clinically to elicit miasm or toxin load and to find appropriate remedies or treatments, often in disorders of uncertain causation.”

      • In an idle moment, I looked at dowsing books/equipment on Amazon. One fellow said that a pair of rods he’d bought-wooden handles, bits of copper – were ‘basic, but did the job’.
        Whether jewel-encrusted handles would have made them more effective, who can say?
        But the thing is -what job did they do?
        I read claims there that dowsing rods could find not only water, but oil, minerals – including gold and silver – missing children, and pet cats and dogs.
        Which raises the question – how do these rods know exactly what they’re looking for?
        Maybe if the dowsers mentioned in the post above don’t find miasms or toxin loads, they’ll discover instead that the patient is full of oil or missing cats.
        Silly dowsing rods!

  • That, and the fact that they’re acupuncturists…

  • why are some medical institutions “integrating” acupuncture and other alternative practices into their medical curriculua? Is it patient demand, lobbyists or the love of magic?

    • I believe it’s a combination of all three. I have often asked myself the same question (and asked Mr. Ernst for his opinion too) as to why some Universities (especially in the UK) have TCM courses in their curricula. To me this is simply an ‘official’ way of legitimizing quackery.
      Going back to Mr. Ernst’s initial question – tolerating quackery is not only irresponsible but downright disrespectful to all the other medical doctors, scientists and medicine students who spend so many years studying and researching in their particular field.

      • Cristian Sirbu on Monday 01 August 2016 at 11:30

        “tolerating quackery is not only irresponsible but downright disrespectful to all the other medical doctors, scientists and medicine students who spend so many years studying and researching in their particular field”

        I could not agree more. Well said.

    • I have subsequently learned that 38% of adults admit using CAM and they spent $33.9 billion dollars out of pocket on these therapies. The bottom line is as usual money, with widespread miseducation(lies) by the industry and their lobby. I wonder if physicians or nonMD administrators are mostly responsible for tarnishing health education in medical schools.

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