An article about one of my favorite scientific subjects, pain sensation, has come up at the New York Times again. In this case, it is a study on acupuncture easing the effects of cancer drugs. I have written about sensation blocking pain before.
Because this study is funded by the NIH, I was hoping to find a free article online, but it seems they are giving Wiley exclusivity for a period of time. What I was able to find was a document that led me to the sham acupuncture treatment, the Park Sham Placebo Acupuncture Device.
The sham was found to be equally effective as real acupuncture. This was not a surprise to me, neither was the fact that both the sham and real acupuncture were effective at reducing measured symptoms. Neuron stimulation relieves pain. Unfortunately, the story is being passed on as both treatments being effective for these cancer patients. Unfortunately, we don’t know that to be the case because of the placebo effect. What I would have liked to see was another placebo that doesn’t provide a nerve stimulus. Something that would test physical therapy like acupuncture against medication for example. Then we would have a better idea what was going on.