Score another round—sort of—for alternative medicine. In what may be the funniest medical study fake-out so far, German scientists report that patients who received fake acupuncture in their lower back reported relief at almost-but-not-quite the same rate as those who received legit acupuncture: 44% of patients improved, versus 47% of those who received real acupuncture and 25% of those who received conventional treatment reported improvements.
So what constitutes fake acupuncture?
For the sham acupuncture, needles were inserted, but not as deeply as for the real thing. The sham acupuncture also did not insert needles in traditional acupuncture points on the body and the needles were not manually moved and rotated.
The study excluded people with spinal fractures, tumors, or scoliosis, as well as pregnant women.
In Germany, the study has led to an increase in health insurance coverage of acupuncture treatments. In the United States, plan coverage for the treatment varies, and an expert says that an average session costs between $45 and $100. But as we now know, thanks to this study, you can save that money and just pay your kid $5 to stick needles randomly in your back until the pain goes away. Or you’re paralyzed.
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