Oh goody. Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day is fast approaching.


A mere couple of weeks ago, I was beginning to “celebrate” a week designated to celebrate the sheer quackiness of the quackery that is naturopathy. True, that’s not what the woo-friendly Senators and Representatives who imposed Naturopathic Medicine Week 2014 on a disinterested world that didn’t need, want, or understand it. They represented it as a great thing, the “integrating” of the “best of both worlds,” those worlds to them being conventional science-based medicine and alternative medicine. To those of us who support science-based medicine, it was integrating cow pie with apple pie, as Mark Crislip would put it. Let’s just say such an “integration” doesn’t make the cow pie better; it makes the apple pie worse.

Well, October appears to be a busy month for quacks, because I found another “celebration” going on in a mere few days. Sure, it’s not a whole week, as the naturopaths have somehow conned woo-friendly legislators into proclaiming each of the last two Octobers. it’s just one day. That day is Friday. The “holiday” is Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day 2014.

My first thought on hearing this was: “Oriental” medicine? Who uses that term anymore? It’s kind of dated and borderline racist. Why didn’t these advocates of traditional Chinese medicine (which, let’s face it, is what we’re really talking about) use the term “Asian” if they wanted to include other forms of woo from that particular continent, such as Ayurveda. Be that as it may, let’s take a look at the press release:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) Day, celebrated annually on October 24, was created to raise awareness of the benefits of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, an effective form of medicine with a 3,000 year history. This national day of observance, recognized by the thousands of licensed acupuncturists, as well as AOM leadership organizations, was spearheaded by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM)® in 2002.

Photo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20141017/152838

In the United States the use of AOM is at an all-time high. In fact, according to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine, an estimated 36% of U.S. adults use some form of complementary and alternative therapy; however, misconceptions about this respected form of medicine still exist. AOM Day’s primary purpose is to educate the public about the benefits of AOM therapies.

Notice the slick bait and switch there. The implication is that because (allegedly) 36% of Americans have used some form of CAM that much of that’s traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and acupuncture. In actuality, the percentage of people using acupuncture and TCM is way smaller than 36%. The way that the 36% estimate for “complementary and alternative medicine” CAM usage was to include a lot of what I like to call “rebranded” entities, some science-based (like exercise and diet), some not (like religion and spirituality). In reality, as I’ve alluded to before, acupuncture, Ayruveda, and TCM didn’t even make the top ten of CAM therapies used by Americans according to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey Report. Indeed, in that survey only 1.4% of Americans reported having used acupuncture within the last year and only 6.6% reported ever having used it. Although numbers might be higher now, only 0.9% reported having used Tai Chi, 0.6% qi gong. The most popular “oriental” medicine used was yoga, with 9.5% reporting ever having used it. Given that most people use yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong more for exercise than any medicinal benefits, anyway.

There’s even an AOM Day website, chock full of events. Just for yucks, I checked out the events in my state. There were four. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), only one is within a half-hour drive of where I live:

Come enjoy Tea and snacks as you meet the AHT healing team! Free stress relief auricular treatments from 6-8pm!

This is at the Asian Healing Traditions in Ann Arbor. There, they offer acupuncture (of course!) for a wide variety of conditions for which there is no evidence that acupuncture demonstrates any efficacy, such as “Amenorrhea, Dysmenorrhea, Endometriosis, Fibroids, Irregular Cycle, Infertility, Menopause, Morning Sickness, PCOS, Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)” and “Allergies, Asthma, Common Cold, Rhinitis, Sinusitis Gastrointestinal: Colitis, Constipation, Diarrhea, Diverticulitis, Gastritis, GERD, IBS, Ulcers, Poor Digestion.” And, of course, there are testimonials. Naturally, the AOM Day website has more, one of which is my favorite variety:

My allergy treatments with my acupuncturist have literally changed my life. Being a skeptic, I refused to reveal what my allergies were. She identified my known allergies / sensitivities as well as a few I didn’t know about. One of the most significant allergens were eggs. After being treated, I ate my first egg at age 36! It made eating all sorts of things possible.

Yes, it’s the “conversion” story! It’s the quack’s favorite testimonial, because believers like to think that their woo works so well that anyone who experiences it will become a convert. Of course, as I’ve described more times than I can remember on this blog, there’s no compelling evidence that acupuncture is more than a “theatrical placebo” (as Steve Novella and David Colqhoun put it) or just a placebo, as I put it in a recent publication. Or, just enter the term “acupuncture” into the text box.

In any case, I know how I’ll (probably) celebrate AOM Day when Friday shows up. I’ll look for the juiciest, quackiest acupuncture study I can find and I’ll have some fun with it. On the other hand, I’ve already discovered that there is someone who thinks acupuncture is good for—surprise! surprise!—Ebola. Of course, there’s a problem with using acupuncture for a hemorrhagic disease, namely sticking needles into the skin, which is likely to cause excessive bleeding. So here’s what the answer of an acupuncturist is to the question Can Acupuncture Help Stop Ebola? It’s:

Stimulation of acupuncture points by some other modality will not kill the Ebola virus. It can be used however to help support the body’s organ systems and heighten the body’s immune defenses.

Needles should not be used to puncture the skin in patients with hemorrhagic diseases. However, the points can be accessed by placing high gauss magnets on the points and leaving them in place for several days

Oh, great. This reminds me of something:


You know. That claim that using “magnet acupuncture” can boost your immune system enough to fight Ebola is so quacky that by the time Friday rolls around, I might have nothing.