19 Jan 2008 05:34 pm

Acupuncture Cures a Ganglion Cyst

Or did it?

A while back I wrote an article entitled, Why We Fall for Alternative Medicine that among other things used acupuncture as a typical example. This of course was applauded by some and readily dismissed by others, namely, those who believe that acupuncture is a valid medical procedure.

One of these days I’m going to do an article on how we as humans form our belief systems, but for now suffice it to say that by-and-large we believe in what we want to believe in. Facts, evidence, truth, logic, reasoning… all have an uphill battle competing for our hearts and minds if we truly want to believe otherwise. It’s just human nature.

On that note, here’s what one commenter had to say about her experience with acupuncture…

There is a time and place for everything.

20 years ago I had debilitating RSI symptoms, and eventually I had a ganglion in my left wrist (like a hard pea under the surface). They are usually removed with surgery.

3 sessions at an acupuncturist got rid of it.

3 months ago, I got a ganglion in my right wrist. It was very hard and the local acupuncturist was hesitant to treat it as he says it can be quite painful, and he asked if I have ever had one before. I said yes, 20 years ago. I also let him know that how I handled childbirth labour and a few other life experiences has taught me I have a pretty good pain threshold, so I am willing for him to have a go. He said it was a very hard one. After 2 sessions it was gone.

Now, on the surface, this would seem to be a compelling testimonial for the power of acupuncture. Taken at face value, one could easily conclude that here is an example of how alternative medicine succeeded where western medicine supposedly failed.

That is until we consult the orthodox medical literature where we learn…

Ganglion cysts arise from the capsule of a joint or the sheath of a tendon. They can be found at different places on the wrist. A ganglion cyst that grows on the top of the wrist is called a dorsal ganglion. Others are found on the underside of the wrist between the thumb and your pulse point, at the end joint of a finger, or at the base of a finger. Most of the time, these are harmless and will often disappear in time.[1]

So we see – as is often the case – alternative medicine is brilliant at achieving miraculous cures for conditions that tend to disappear on their own.

If you read the entire AAOS article, you will learn that these cysts are not “usually removed with surgery” as the commenter mistakenly believed. Rather, ganglion cysts seldom require surgery because the doctors know they will most likely disappear if you just give them time.


Now I don’t know where my commenter got her information or how she arrived at her conclusions, but her take on the story is obviously not in keeping with the facts. I suspect that she allowed her disdain for conventional medicine – coupled with her predilection for exotic alternatives — to cloud her judgment.

In other words, she let her casual observations trick her into believing what she wanted to believe. And the sad part is she is now going about spreading the word of how acupuncture performed a miraculous cure when she no doubt would have achieved the same results had she done nothing at all.

One can only wonder how many people will be misled by her faulty conclusions and her heartfelt testimonial.

Do I think writing articles exposing the fallacies of alternative medicine will somehow convince these people that they’re wrong? Do I think I can persuade the acupuncture proponents they’re making a mistake? No, I have no such delusions. I fully expect them to cling to their beliefs regardless of the facts. I expect them to continue on as before, because that’s what people do. As I said at the beginning of this post, that’s just human nature.

They will continue to believe in acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy and other forms of so-called alternative medicine because it’s what they want to believe. Facts and evidence will not persuade them to the contrary.


Update: Upon reviewing the above post, I realized that I edited out one key point for the sake of brevity. I originally meant to point out that I am not dismissing acupuncture altogether. I find it to be interesting and worthy of further investigation. The purpose of this post is not to knock acupuncture, but to merely point out how easily we can fool ourselves if we don’t examine things in a scientific manner. I will have more on this in future posts, which I intend to group into a section specifically about alternative medicine.


1. AAOS: Ganglion (Cyst) of the Wrist
2. Why We Fall For Alternative Medicine


11 Responses to “Acupuncture Cures a Ganglion Cyst”

  1. on 23 Jan 2008 at 3:08 am 1.Judy said …

    There’s a very old joke that the best treatment for a ganglion cyst is a medical book — preferably a very large one. You smack the cyst with the book and it goes away.

    That probably works, although I can’t recommend it.

    I inadvertently “cured” my ganglion cyst (which my hand surgeon had declined to remove, citing significant pain and potential for it to simply go away on it’s own). What he had done – about 7 days prior to my incident – was a laparoscopic carpal tunnel release. The power went out in our house so I was trying to get something out of the freezer without warming it too much. I opened and closed the door rather too quickly, slamming my wrist in the process. I saw stars for several minutes, but the cyst was gone, never to return. Much less expensive than acupuncture, too.

  2. on 23 Jan 2008 at 11:31 am 2.elizabeth said …

    i had a ganglion cyst a few years ago. after about a year i went to to a dr since i didn’t know what it was. the dr i saw said i had 3 choices: 1) surgery 2) have it suctioned or 3) leave it. it should go away on it’s own.
    i went with the 3rd option. since i have 2 young kids the recovery time for the first 2 choices was something i didn’t have the luxury to take. it eventually did go away after 2 years. it sucked tho. those things can make workouts really challenging and a real pain when they’re at the base of the hand/wrist area.

  3. on 23 Jan 2008 at 2:48 pm 3.Dean said …

    Hi Judy and elizabeth, Thanks for the comments and for confirming that these cysts do in fact, disappear on their own over time.

  4. on 26 Jan 2008 at 2:06 pm 4.Ami said …

    Don’t worry about the people you can’t ‘convert’ away from alternative medicine, but the younger people coming into the world.

    I think a course in critical thinking and logic should be a high school requirement. It shouldn’t be something stuck in one of the science courses, especially the more advanced ones, but a class all its own.

  5. on 27 Jan 2008 at 7:08 pm 5.Dean said …

    Hi Ami, Sorry I haven’t been by your blog in a while. Hope to get back to reading other people’s posts very soon.

    And I agree with you wholeheartedly. A little training in critical thinking never hurt anybody.

  6. on 10 Feb 2008 at 9:33 pm 6.Laura said …

    Judy, the version of that story I have heard is that ganglion cysts are the one thing cured with faith healing: hit them with a family Bible.

  7. on 03 Mar 2008 at 8:59 pm 7.Peter said …

    Yes, I agree with the critical thinking issue. Just this week thre was research published which showed anti-depressant medications (SSRI’s) to be no more effective than placebo in the treatment of depression. Some in the medical establishment immediately jumped to the defence of antidepressant meds citing their “clinical experience”. So much for “evidence based medicine.

  8. on 03 Apr 2008 at 7:02 am 8.Kathryn said …

    I have a large cyst on my hand, which was removed surgically two years ago. It has grown back, larger than ever. When accidentally hit, it is excruciatingly painful. Recently, a friend informed me that she had had hers drained, with a touch of cortisone inserted, which closed off the sac’s ability to absorb more fluid. The literature I’ve come across indicates that cysts can go away on their own – and what I’ve noticed with mine is that is grows with the amount of stress in my life – so it’s like a stress indicator. Given the fact that my father was abusive, this is no surprise to me, even all these years later. A couple of people mention hitting a cyst with a heavy book – yes, well that “worked” back when there was no penicillin, and when people were completely in the dark about root causes of most illnesses. It would be a cruel thing to do to anybody. Do those people drown their kittens as well?

  9. on 25 Jun 2008 at 12:15 pm 9.Elizabeth said …

    I have read and read that ganglion grows near the wrist or fingers, etc, etc. I haven’t read yet that anyone has had it on the side of the wrist. I originally started a year and half ago with one on my left wrist and then after a year I developed another one on my right wrist but both ganglion are on the side wrist(inside, in other words when I put both hands togehter they are touching each other) since I haven’t read where anybody is getting it on the top or buttom of hands or write I am wondering if this is Ganglion. Does anybody know? For my left wrist it is going on 2-years now shouldn’t it be gone by now?

  10. on 21 Jul 2008 at 8:31 am 10.Ila said …

    I had a ganglion on the top my foot which kept growing for over a year. The podiatrist said she could drain it but I did not go back. This was in May. Then a lot of things happened in my life and I forgot all about the cyst. The other day I was in Target and tried on some sandals and oh my gosh, the huge cyst was gone! Now I don’t feel conscious to wear sandals anymore. I thank God for this and keep looking down at my now smooth foot!

  11. on 23 Jul 2008 at 6:14 am 11.Ian said …

    I have had one of these for 16 years on the back of my wrist, only now is it starting to be a problem because i play guitar and it is putting pressure on my wrist. Hopefully the doc will sort it out with cortisone.

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