Sunday, 14 June 2009

Prick up your ears

Hands up all those who had never noticed that an ear has much the same shape as a full-term foetus in the womb, head down.

Furthermore, there are no less than two hundred acupuncture points in an ear, each of which, when a needle is stuck into it, will send an electrical impulse via the brain to a specific part of the body. Therefore, "if somebody had a painful knee, for example, by treating the ‘knee’ acupuncture point on the ear, it would help alleviate the pain".

All this information and much more is to be found in the well-designed and admirably clear website of the College of Auricular Acupuncture. This body takes its responsibilities to the practitioners of this discipline very seriously indeed, with training courses leading to the Practitioner Certificate and the Comprehensive Diploma; recently they have announced their enthusiasm for voluntary regulation and have set up a working group to draft National Occupational Standards for their trade, which would enable them to gain membership of the CNHC.

This sets them apart from other professional bodies concerned with complementary and alternative medicine, most of which have been showing marked reluctance to give up any of their authority to the new council, so much so that the CHNC are desperate about their lack of progress and have become very secretive about how many registrants they have signed up. So they will be no doubt be grateful to have the Auricular Acupuncture crowd on board, even if they are only a fringe element in the acupuncture world. The other bodies concerned with the discipline will still have to be convinced, but it will be nice for the CHNC to get a few more practitioners clamouring to be registered and "regulated", even though what they practise is silly rubbish.

It occurs to me that the pioneers of this discipline must have spent many weary months of trial-and-error in identifying (pinpointing?) the exact location of each point, and that the training courses for aspiring Auricular Acupuncturists must be long and arduous, and their examinations extremely rigorous. You can't just jab away carelessly, for with all those two hundred points jostling in the ear you could be in serious trouble if you got any of them a bit wrong: just a millimetre out, and you might find you had relieved your patient of the pain in his elbow instead of curing his piles as he was paying you to do. (On second thoughts, though, this couldn't happen, because only the placebo effect actually works, so your patient would be bound to feel the benefit in the place where you had told him he would.)

One advantage of Auricular Acupuncture is that treatment does not involve taking your clothes off or even lying down. Another is that if the patient suffers from a number of different maladies, they can all be cured in one go.

Note: The Quackometer explained the background to this remarkable technique in much more detail back in January. The note is admirably clear and comprehensive, but I think my post has the better title.


Elizabeth said...

Brilliant title! Terrifying picture! To be fair, don't many thousands more people die from orthodox hospitals' bugs than from quackery and isn't 50% of the benefit of orthodox medicine placebic? (if there's such a word)

Tony said...

Yes, it's true that not many die from quackery, apart from those who are really ill and choose it instead of medicine that actually works. This is because most quack remedies have no effect at all, either good or bad — here's a useful summary .

I would think that rather less than 50% of orthodox drugs have no effect other than merely acting as placebos, but anyway the figure, whatever it is, is much lower than the 99% for CAM.