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