MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The University College London Hospitals (UCLH) include the ‘Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine’ (RLHIM). The RLHIM offers a range of so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs), including acupuncture.

This is how they advertise traditional acupuncture to the unsuspecting public:

Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This is a system of healing which has been practised in China and other Eastern countries for thousands of years.

Although often used as a means of pain relief, it can treat people with other illnesses. The focus is on improving the overall well-being of the patient, rather than the isolated treatment of specific symptoms.

You will be seen individually and assessed by an acupuncturist trained in TCM. They will use traditional Chinese techniques including pulse, tongue and abdominal diagnosis. They will also ask you about your medical history and lifestyle.

The TCM trained acupuncturist can stimulate the body’s own healing response and help to restore its natural balance.

The principal aim of acupuncture in treating the whole person is to create balance between your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. It can help to relax, improve mood and sleep, relieve tension and improve your sense of well-being, as well as improving symptoms.

We will assess your individual needs and discuss a treatment plan with you during your initial consultation.

The treatment may include the use of the following:

  • The use of fine acupuncture needles
  • Moxibustion (burning of the herb mugwort close to the surface of the skin)
  • Cupping therapy (to create local suction on the skin)
  • Acupressure (pressure applied to acu-points to stimulate energy flow)
  • Electro-acupuncture (a low voltage current is passed between 2 needles)

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How reliable is this information? I will try to answer this question by discussing the 6 statements that, in my view, are most questionable.

Although often used as a means of pain relief, it can treat people with other illnesses

Whether acupuncture is effective for pain relief is debatable. A recent analysis cast considerable doubt on the assumption. The notion that acupuncture ‘can treat people with other illnesses’ seems like a ‘carte blanche’ for treating virtually any condition regardless of evidence.

Improving the overall well-being of the patient

I am not aware of sound evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for improving overall well-being.

Traditional Chinese techniques including pulse, tongue and abdominal diagnosis

These diagnostic techniques have not been adequately validated and have no place in evidence-based healthcare.

The TCM trained acupuncturist can stimulate the body’s own healing response and help to restore its natural balance

I am not aware of sound evidence to show that acupuncture stimulates healing. The statement seems like another ‘carte blanche’ for treating anything the therapist feels like, regardless of evidence.

The principal aim of acupuncture in treating the whole person is to create balance between your physical, emotional and spiritual needs

The claim that acupuncture is a holistic treatment is based on little more than wishful thinking by acupuncturists.

It can help to relax, improve mood and sleep, relieve tension and improve your sense of well-being, as well as improving symptoms

I am not aware of sound evidence that acupuncture is effective in treating any of the named conditions. The end of the sentence (‘as well as improving symptoms’) is another ‘carte blanche’ for doing anything the acupuncturists feels like.

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The UCLH are firmly committed to EBM. The RLHIM claims to be ‘a centre for evidence-based practice’. This claim is not supported by the above advertisement of acupuncture which is clearly not based on good evidence. Moreover, it has the potential to mislead vulnerable patients and thus cause considerable harm. In my view, it is high time that the UCLH address this problem.

14 Responses to Acupuncture at the University College London Hospitals

  • “The principle aim of acupuncture” is to provide a living for acupuncturists and administrators of their services.

  • Have you considered a complaint to the ASA? I would have thought this might fall under their remit.
    They are apparently making claims that are well beyond their ability to fulfill.
    Since they can’t prove that they can actually provide any of this nonsense – QED

  • At least they offer scientifically sound and very detailed information regarding the question:
    “How does acupuncture work?”
    —————————————————————-
    Quote: “Acupuncture stimulates the nerves in skin and muscle, and can produce different effects. We know that it can help your body release natural painkillers in parts of your spinal cord and brain. This modifies the way your brain receives information about pain.”
    —————————————————————-

    AHA! So according to them, acupuncture “stimulates the nerves”, which then helps to “release natural painkillers”!!

    So THAT is how it works! No further questions! I feel a little bit dizzy and overwhelmed by this hugh amount of information. But well, after “thousands of years” of practice, I guess one can expect such an enormous wealth of knowledge.

    Thank you, RLHIM, now I finally begin to understand how sticking small needles somewhere into your body can cure so many different health problems!

  • I’ve often wondered. . . When they stick a pin in a person, is there a doll somewhere that feels the pain?

  • Quackupuncture. Corrected.

  • Any complaint to the ASA should be about UCLH and RLHIM claiming to be “centres of evidence based medicine”.
    Which, clearly, they ain’t.

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