Acupuncture Research & Evidence Based Practices

Acupuncture Research: Quality and Relevance

Modern research and the modern scientific method have led to an explosion of technology and progress in modern life – including with our medical care. For the past 30-35 years, the emphasis has seen a significant shift from clinical evidence as the largest determinant of what is evidence based practice (EBP) to Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs). This is primarily due, in my opinion, to the explosion of the use of pharmaceuticals as a primary method of providing care. RCTs can work very well in evaluating pharmaceutical efficacy, but to a much lesser degree with clinical procedures (think surgery, bone setting, etc.). Some estimates indicate clinical trial and error are how as much as 80% of EBPs for clinical procedures were determined. The point is that RCTs are a great source of information and can be powerful in determining what is an EBP for a lot of things, but research quality is not simply about reducing variables and finding the null hypothesis – the methods must include the right variables and controls. In plain English, this is best understood in a quote often mis-attributed to Einstein:

“Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid”

The following article is a great example of how choosing the wrong variables, placebo, or measures of efficacy can create research that leads to questionable or false conclusions:

Difficulties Choosing Control Points in Acupuncture Research.

The bottom line here is that we MUST learn to think critically, and we MUST constantly redefine what constitutes quality research. 

The WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023

The WHO official position published in 2003 has been retired in favor of The WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy, 2014-2023. You can read or download the published document here:  WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy: 2014-2023