Your Friday Dose of Woo: Just what acupuncture needs. Holograms. And more quantum.

It’s been a bit of a depressing week. I suppose it’s not any more depressing than usual, with the usual unending stream of pseudoscience, quackery (particularly of the Ebola type), and, of course, antivaccine nonsense to deal with. Then, as I’m writing yet another in a long line of unfunded grants, I find out that a foundation—and an anonymous foundation at that!—has donated close to $4 million to an “integrative oncology” practice in Ottawa affiliated with a naturopathy school to study “integrating” quackery with science-based oncology.

At first, I was thinking that I’d just do an acupuncture post, given that tomorrow is Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day 2014, but then a reader gave me a better idea. At least, it was fodder for a better idea. I used to do a weekly feature on Fridays, in which I’d find the weirdest, wackiest, and silliest things that alternative medicine and quackery (but I repeat myself) have to offer. Remember? I haven’t done it in a while, because it was starting to get repetitive, and either the quality of woo or my ability to entertainingly skewer it had clearly been declining. I still resurrect it from time to time, and this seems a perfect time, given the subject, as you will see.

I’m talkin’Your Friday Dose of Woo, baby! Worse, I noticed that it’s been over a year since I’ve done it. So YFDoW, here we go. Even better, it’s something that can be shoehorned into Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Week 2014 without too much difficulty. All we need is a hologram.

Now, I hear you all saying out there, “WTF? A hologram! What’s that got to do with acupuncture?” No, it’s not holographic acupuncture (although that would be awesome). Rather, it’s the modern cousin of acupuncture that doesn’t involve all that sticking of sharp metalling objects, however thin, into the body. I’m referring, of course, to acupressure, which claims that putting pressure on acupuncture points is just as good as sticking needles in them. But if mere pressure works, then you must know that there’s only one way to make that pressure even more awesomely fantastic, albeit with no more healing properties than acupuncture (and that’s saying a lot, given that acupuncture has no known healing properties). Add holograms, baby:

John Schaeffer, president of the Winning Factor Sports Sciences Training Center, with multiple sports science degrees and a background in quantum physics, announces the launch of Holographic Acupressure Discs™ formulated by Winning Factor. These discs are the culmination of a decade of scientific testing and proven use by world class athletes nationally and internationally. Originally created to help athletes reduce pain and recover more quickly to train better, these discs are now available to the general public. They are an ideal option for consumers seeking non-pharmaceutical methods to treat their pain naturally.

In fact, pain is among the most common reasons that Americans turn to alternative forms of acupressure in the first place and millions experience some form of pain on a daily basis – whether it’s ankle pain from a “Weekend Warrior” working out too strenuously or the executive sitting for 15 hours in the office and dealing with their body’s minor aches and pains.

The Holographic Acupressure Discs™ formulated by Winning Factor are a form of acupressure through holographic technology. They are a non-invasive, do-it-yourself and affordable pain relief option for general wellness. They specifically target any areas that acupressure can, such as: back, head, jaw/TMJ, knee, shoulder and wrist pain, sprains and swelling.

You know, rather than woo-ey disks with 3D-appearing holograms on them, I’d rather have a real hologram, like the holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager. At least he knew real medicine. Instead, we get some company selling disks that look like this;

Uglyassacupressure disks

With packaging that looks like something you’d see in 1967 after dropping acid. (Of course, I wouldn’t know from personal experience, particularly given that I was a preschooler in 1967 and my only drugs have been caffeine and the odd alcoholic beverage—more at skeptic events—but that’s what I hear.) See what I mean:


But how, you ask, do they work? Good question! Let’s go straight to the press release! There, we learn:

Each disc is uniquely programmed with one-of-a-kind vibrational frequencies that influence a person’s body. Holograms are quarter-sized/self-adhesive discs that are embedded with electrovibrational frequencies. Once programmed, they are then placed on acupressure points – specific places on the skin that are especially sensitive to bioelectrical impulses and long recognized and researched that these areas conduct human energy. Science has shown that using acupressure and stimulating these exact points can result in a myriad of natural body reactions, such as releasing neurochemicals (which block pain), promoting healing, improving circulation, boosting the immune function, and promoting the body’s ability to detoxify. In terms of explaining how the acupressure discs help alleviate pain, it is simple: one’s body is stimulated in relationship to how the holograms are programmed and their exact placement on the acupressure meridans. “This is an all-natural response,” says Schaeffer. “The hologram activates the acupressure area which influences the body to function and perform at its most efficient level.”

“As an expert in acupressure through holographic technology, I have combined the ancient wisdom of acupressure with modern technology. These discs are about ten years in the making and the female and male athletes I train have used them with great success. I am thrilled to make them available now to everyone. Consumers want a natural pain relief option without drugs or invasive procedures, at a low price point, and with noside effects.”

My first thought was: Holy holographic disc-shaped BS, Batman!

My second thought was: Vibrations. Why did it have to be vibrations? It’s the catch-all phrase that quacks love to repeat. Just for yucks, I did a search for “vibrational frequencies” and discovered that I’ve covered this topic many times through the years. For instance, does anyone remember Dr. Masuro Emoto’s water woo, in which he claimed that “intent” could be imprinted on water through the use of thought, gesture, and language? I do. In fact, the first time I took notice of Dr. Emoto’s—shall we say?—imaginative bit of mystical water quackery was way back in 2006. It was even an installment of YFDoW! Indeed, Emoto and I have traveled long together in the skeptical blogosphere, I a blogger, he a topic. Rather like Bigfoot and just as real. That’s why I was saddened to learn a week ago that Dr. Emoto had died. In tribute, I can’t resist posting this video because the same sort of nonsensical ideas contained therein about “vibrations” apply to Schaeffer’s holographic disk:

Now, Emoto didn’t mention “vibration” or “resonance” in the video, which has about as much to do with raising children as Schaeffer’s holographic disks have to do with reality, but make no mistake. He was always all about the vibrations. For instance, his bottled water, H2Om, was said to have “several distinctive vibrational frequencies that are incorporated in each bottle of H2Om.” Rather just like Schaeffer’s holographic disk “vibration” and just as scientifically valid, if you know what I mean. (You’re skeptics. Figure it out.)

Back to the holographic acupressure discs, with their “one-of-a-kind vibrational frequencies.” I wonder what Shaeffer’s background in quantum physics is, because clearly his education has failed him if he thinks these discs of his are anything more than discs with an ugly hologram on each of them. My first question when I read the press release was to wonder whether Schaeffer had any actual—oh, you know—scientific studies to back up his claims for these discs. Certainly none is mentioned in the press release. There are, however, testimonials, including one by Louie Vito, billed as a Olympic and World Snowboard Champion, who likes them. Apparently Apollo Ohno likes them too. Of course, testimonials of sports figures mean little; if there’s an area of human activity that’s rife with superstition, it’s sports. These are also testimonials, which are frequently misleading, given people’s cognitive biases and placebo responses. Unfortunately, apparently even doctors aren’t immune, because there’s a testimonial by two doctors, Dr. Job Menges, an orthopedic surgeon in Reading, PA, and Dr. Michelle Holding, also in Reading, PA, who specializes in pain medicine. She even seems to call in regularly to be recorded about how she uses these discs in her practice, such as here.

If you look at Schaeffer’s Facebook page, you’ll see that he’s a true believer in many things woo. I mean, the guy posts articles like The language of the body: Why just treating symptoms will never result in true health from and all sorts of other woo. The only thing I can give Schaeffer credit for is that his woo discs are not too expensive ($19.95 for 35 discs), but if you wear them every day costs add up.

Every time I see something like this, I think, “I’m in the wrong business.” You know, if I ever went to the Dark Side and used my powers for evil, I bet I could make a far better placebo disc than Schaeffer. Holographic Acupressure Disc? That’s nothing! Mine would be Quantum Laser Holographic Homeopathic Acupuncture Discs. Take that, Schaeffer! Or maybe I’ll miniaturize. Think of the potential for Quantum Laser Holographic Homeopathic Electroacupuncture Needles! Acupuncturists will eat it up.

I scare myself sometimes. Don’t believe me? I restrained myself in coming up with these ideas.