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Vincenzo Nibali attributes at least part of his TDF success to be as a result of the Astana team using acupuncture.

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/820361-acupuncture-helped-vincenzo-nibal...

So - is this marginal gains, or is it a unfair advantage similar to those of some other blokes who won this race in the past?

58 comments

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Al__S [1024 posts] 1 year ago
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It's quackery, pure and simple. Even supposedly "scientific" Garmin-Sharp employ a chiropractor. So much quackery and magical thinking going on.

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Beatnik69 [320 posts] 1 year ago
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Probably the only time they're happy to get 'punctured while on Tour.  1

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afternoon [1 post] 1 year ago
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A study from 2009 found that acupuncture can be very effective for back pain. Since back pain is a common complaint for cyclists, this makes a lot of sense.

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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Al__S wrote:

It's quackery, pure and simple. Even supposedly "scientific" Garmin-Sharp employ a chiropractor. So much quackery and magical thinking going on.

Having used acupuncture and been treated by the NHS with it in the past I'd strongly disagree with calling acupuncture "quackery".

I am more willing to be proved wrong and hold my hands up to it just being a placebo effect if you can point me in the direction of such evidence?

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Shades [294 posts] 1 year ago
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Al__S wrote:

It's quackery, pure and simple. Even supposedly "scientific" Garmin-Sharp employ a chiropractor. So much quackery and magical thinking going on.

Many years ago I suffered dreadfully with a slipped disc. The medics solution of physio and mind blowing painkillers didn't do much, but a Chiropractor sorted me out. I still go 3 times a year for 'maintenance'. On one of my recent visits I had a stiff neck that just wouldn't go away. Chiro sorted it out. Works for some.

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arrieredupeleton [576 posts] 1 year ago
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Serious question: The UCI had a no needle policy. Would this still be allowed as there's no ingestion of anything?

Less serious question: Are Astana's needles hollow and have vials/blood bags attached?

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Markus [50 posts] 1 year ago
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+1 for the chiro being useful.
Actually, the guy who I go to see if I've had a bad fall or such is not a chiropractor, he's been trained a bit differently. But he results are very good. Partially dislocated shoulder, twisted hips, fractured and misaligned ribs - fixed. M.D.s (at least the one I've dealt with over here) are clueless when it comes to things like this.

As far as acupuncture goes, some people say it has helped them, others don't. If it works, great, if it doesn't, well there are not any side effects, so no harm done.

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notfastenough [3679 posts] 1 year ago
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I don't have a particular side to take with acupuncture, but classing a chiropractor as quackery? Correct me if I'm wrong, but that and osteopaths just seem like alternatives to physio to me.

Like arriere... I also wonder about whether this contravenes the no-needles policy - suppose it depends on whether you side with the letter or the spirit of the law...

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Chris James [388 posts] 1 year ago
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notfastenough wrote:

I also wonder about whether this contravenes the no-needles policy - suppose it depends on whether you side with the letter or the spirit of the law...

Or if you are looking for an excuse to explain why your riders look like pin cushions....

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Flying Scot [918 posts] 1 year ago
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A good friend is a proper physio, as far as he is concerned, chiro is quackery, he works training champions league football physio's.

Basically they work around the issues you have without solving the underlying problem potentially landing you with a different issue years down the line.

He also works part toe in the NHS and is very critical of some of the physio delivered there, as often notes, scans etc. from the consultant aren't shared fully with the physio and the treatment is a waste of time.

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Al__S [1024 posts] 1 year ago
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notfastenough wrote:

I don't have a particular side to take with acupuncture, but classing a chiropractor as quackery? Correct me if I'm wrong, but that and osteopaths just seem like alternatives to physio to me.

Physio is based on a good understanding of how the human body works*. Chiro is based on a crackpot concept that everything that ails you (not just back pains- we're talking asthma, viruses, bacterial infections, diabetes, even cancers!) can be cured by spinal manipulation to get rid of "subluxations". Osteopathy is chiro that's a little bit quieter about the whole "subluxation" thing.

*not perfect by any means, of course.

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arfa [747 posts] 1 year ago
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Years ago my folks had an arthritic dog. They would give him acupuncture and he'd move fine after treatment so I don't know how that would qualify as a placebo effect.
I don't know about chiro but some of the alternative therapies can be incredible. A few years ago I had a bad skiing smash leaving me with a spine out of kilter and unable to walk due to muscle spasm. The NHS gave me 2 months of valium and cocodamol and wished me luck. The next day I went for 30 minutes of Bowen therapy and walked out of the clinic and binned the pills. There's more to unconventional medicine in my opinion.

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ronin [264 posts] 1 year ago
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Al__S wrote:

It's quackery, pure and simple. Even supposedly "scientific" Garmin-Sharp employ a chiropractor. So much quackery and magical thinking going on.

My teacher taught me this:

If you don't know something, it's simply more than you know.

My master taught me:

To say "I don't know" is half of knowledge.

You can't possible know everything, so perhaps you have no experience of acupuncture. If you do, let's hear it. If not let me share my experience with you.

I was very fit when I was young, training all the time, like crazy. I can't remember how, but my index finger started being very cold and I couldn't bend it properly, whereas the others were OK.
I went to see the doctor, he gave me some cream. It didn't work after weeks. Someone recommended me to see an acupuncturist. It was back to normal in days.

Not all are good though, and it can't treat everything.

The human body is quite complex. Now doctors are talking of circadian rhythms and perhaps giving medicine when the body is most able to use it properly to increase the effectiveness of it. This was well known in Chinese medicine a good thousand years ago.

I could tell you things that your mind would reject simply because you cannot perceive them. Does that make them not true?

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notfastenough [3679 posts] 1 year ago
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Al__S wrote:
notfastenough wrote:

I don't have a particular side to take with acupuncture, but classing a chiropractor as quackery? Correct me if I'm wrong, but that and osteopaths just seem like alternatives to physio to me.

Physio is based on a good understanding of how the human body works*. Chiro is based on a crackpot concept that everything that ails you (not just back pains- we're talking asthma, viruses, bacterial infections, diabetes, even cancers!) can be cured by spinal manipulation to get rid of "subluxations". Osteopathy is chiro that's a little bit quieter about the whole "subluxation" thing.

*not perfect by any means, of course.

I saw an osteopath years ago to help with some back pain. It did sort the problem, but I suspect the manipulations would have been very similar regardless of who (Physio/chiro/osteo) I went to see.

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Wrongfoot [35 posts] 1 year ago
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If acupuncture was the only thing I'll be delighted... It's doesn't work beyond placebo as recently demonstrated in this study http://www.badscience.net/2007/09/acupuncture-and-back-pain-some-interes... where "needles stuck anywhere with a bit of ceremony" was contrasted with "proper acupuncture" both worked... = placebo effect.

We know that placebo does actually help up to a point, but to my mind it isn't cheating.

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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Wrongfoot wrote:

where "needles stuck anywhere with a bit of ceremony" was contrasted with "proper acupuncture" both worked... = placebo effect

Is that really proof that it is all placebo?

Surely it would only be placebo if one group had needles put in them and one group hadn't?

Surely that study is more akin to giving one group with headaches paracetamol and the other group unnamed tablets that happened to be paracetamol, and then calling paracetamol a placebo because the majority of the recipients found their headaches lessened?

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adamthekiwi [110 posts] 1 year ago
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Apologies if this is tl;dr - if it is, well, tl;dr!

Actually, placebo is a very effective treatment. I can't recall the paper off the top of my head (it was a published, peer-reviewed study and I will dig it out if anyone is interested) but patients given a pill *and told it was a placebo* showed a measurable improvement in a variety of pathologies. Interestingly, if I remember the contents correctly, the most effective placebo pills were large red or yellow ones.

Doctors can be effective placebos too - again, I'll dig out the study if anyone is interested, but a doctor saying "You'll be better in no time" has much better outcomes than a doctor who says "I'm not sure this treatment will work for you".

My understanding is that acupuncture has inconsistent results in evidence-based testing, partly because of the difficulty in designing experiments with a control group for such an invasive procedure. Chiropracty and osteopathy are theoretically junk, but have some good results for musculo-skeletal pain.

Essentially, it may well be that any team could get the same results as Astana by employing someone that the riders trust as a professional to give them a big red sugar pill and tell them they're definitely going to win! It will work brilliantly until the other teams uncover it as a method!

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faceplant [11 posts] 1 year ago
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No, because acupuncture is supposed to be needles (or other stimulation) inserted in specific places they call "acupoints". In fact, it turns out that you can stick needles in anywhere and have the same effect. Indicating that the effect is caused by the expectation of benefit, and hence, is the placebo effect.

A better version of your analogy would be to give one group of people with headaches paracetamol tablets and another group of people with headaches some paracetamol cream to rub on their feet. If both groups found their headaches lessened then yes, you could call paracetamol a placebo.

edit: I should note as adamthekiwi says above, the placebo effect can be beneficial, but it's no reason to buy in to bad science. Otherwise it's a slippery slope back to charms to ward off the plague.

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Al__S [1024 posts] 1 year ago
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You go to the doctor, you sit waiting because their appointments are over running, you get hurried in, they listen to you and if it sounds like they can, they'll issue you a prescription and hurry you out. This will be a rather "clinical" situation.

You visit a quack, they'll have longer appointments, and will sit you down, relax you, maybe have soothing music etc.

(can't find the reference) the best acupuncture studies that have been done have had the patients split four ways. Half get their treatment in "traditional" acupuncture settings, half in a more clinical environment. Half get the needles stuck in the places that the acupuncturists say they should be, half get them stuck in arbitrary places.

If acupuncture had any effect beyond placebo (which can be beneficial, but there's ethical issues about giving someone a treatment which you tell them works but you know has- and can't have- any scientific basis) then the groups getting "real" acupuncture, both in the relaxed and clinical settings, would see a benefit. But what is found is that those in the relaxed setting, be it "real" or "sham" acupuncture, get a benefit. Which is interesting as far as considering how treatment rooms should be designed and run, but that's another matter.

This idea that "traditional Chinese medicine" and similar has some sort of validity because it uses ideas that have been around for "thousands" of years is utter toss. Modern medicine uses ideas that have been around for thousands of years, just refined, researched and put under proper scrutiny. We've ditched lots of ideas that had been around for a long time because they were wrong- the idea of "bile", the idea that the heart does any sort of thinking, and so on.

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 1 year ago
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I wonder how much of the effect of conventional doping is placebo. The placebo effect is very powerful. If you think you've got a secret advantage over your competitors, then you've got an advantage. (I'm not talking about EPO or blood transfusions here. I'm thinking of other banned products which have a less marked effect.)

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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faceplant wrote:

No, because acupuncture is supposed to be needles (or other stimulation) inserted in specific places they call "acupoints". In fact, it turns out that you can stick needles in anywhere and have the same effect. Indicating that the effect is caused by the expectation of benefit, and hence, is the placebo effect.

But they weren't stuck in anywhere, they were stuck in to the skin of the patients. You could say that the test was a test of whether someones Qi or energy flows through their organs is bollocks, but I still remain unconvinced that acupuncture in terms of putting needles in to the skin is the hokum that the study suggests it is.

I couldn't tell you anything about acupoints to save my life, but the sensations from having needles put in to me felt very, very real. The relaxing properties afterwards were very similar to that of more illegal methods, which was a pleasant bonus.

faceplant wrote:

edit: I should note as adamthekiwi says above, the placebo effect can be beneficial, but it's no reason to buy in to bad science. Otherwise it's a slippery slope back to charms to ward off the plague.

Although, don't you think we shouldn't just throw the baby out with the bathwater in terms of medical treatments just because they are old or seemingly old fashioned? Isn't there an increase in the number of doctors using leeches again?

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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For clarity, my acupuncture treatments came with no Eastern mystique, it was delivered by an NHS physiotherapist in clinical surroundings. So no soothing voices, very little to put you at ease and the only music was the occasional bass thud from a passing scrote mobile.

It was never a relaxed affair until I left feeling relaxed, at one session due to the appointments running over schedule I ended up sharing the treatment room with another patient who was a complete stranger whilst I lay there in my boxers.

I'm open minded enough to be proved wrong, I have no problem with being told it was all an effect of my mind, but I haven't seen enough to make me doubt acupuncture or to agree that it is quackery.

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adamthekiwi [110 posts] 1 year ago
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@ronin: 2 points:

1) The plural of anecdote is not data. I once had a nasty cold that persisted for weeks - none of the normal treatments were working, so one night I decided to get smashed on whisky. The next morning, once my hangover cleared, my cold was completely cured! Clearly, this is objective and universal proof that getting smashed on whisky is a completely valid cure for the common cold!

2) We're not talking about Al_S' knowledge on the subject of acupuncture, we're talking about a scientific method that has been in gestation for thousands of years and demands that, for things to be accepted as objective truth, they should be measured against objective measures. That, along with a massive body of published and peer-reviewed studies generated using that method - that represents rather more knowledge than Al_S has to retain in his head for any length of time.

Despite the application of thousands of studies, using these methods, to acupuncture there is no consensus that it is any more effective as a treatment than taking a big red sugar pill or having someone in a white coat say "There, there, you'll feel better tomorrow". That's not to say it isn't effective (see my post above)...

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faceplant [11 posts] 1 year ago
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farrell wrote:

But they weren't stuck in anywhere, they were stuck in to the skin of the patients. You could say that the test was a test of whether someones Qi or energy flows through their organs is bollocks, but I still remain unconvinced that acupuncture in terms of putting needles in to the skin is the hokum that the study suggests it is.

I couldn't tell you anything about acupoints to save my life, but the sensations from having needles put in to me felt very, very real. The relaxing properties afterwards were very similar to that of more illegal methods, which was a pleasant bonus.

Again though, acupuncture performed "properly" requires the needles be inserted into very specific areas. The fact that the same effect could be achieved from inserting needles randomly indicates that the practice is a nonsense. Unless you're arguing that we should just insert needles randomly and call it acupuncture? Who knows, maybe that's what some of them do.

Your experience is a perfect illustration of the placebo effect. You received some kind of treatment, which you hoped or expected would relax you. However, it is no different to the doctor effect, or sugar pill, or people claiming miraculous cures due to homeopathy. The effects may be real, but the causes are absolutely due to the placebo effect or other changes, not the claimed treatments.

Quote:

Although, don't you think we shouldn't just throw the baby out with the bathwater in terms of medical treatments just because they are old or seemingly old fashioned? Isn't there an increase in the number of doctors using leeches again?

The reason that we should resist these types of treatments, despite their potentially beneficial (placebo) effects, is that they are essentially frauds that lead people to false hope, and often take people's money. Sometimes people get better, but other times people rely on these false treatments for conditions that can be treated with modern medicine, which can result in deterioration in health, or even death. There's no baby in the bathwater, it's just water.

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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faceplant wrote:

Your experience is a perfect illustration of the placebo effect. You received some kind of treatment, which you hoped or expected would relax you.

Actually, I had no hopes or expectations about the acupuncture, if I had have known that it was going to happen I would have dismissed it as utter nonsense. It's not something I would have signed up for. However, my first thoughts on this bout of acupuncture matched my first words, which were "what the fuck are you doing?" as I looked down at a number of needles in my achilles and leg.

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Simon E [2720 posts] 1 year ago
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Al_S appears to be under the impression that therapies such as Acupuncture are like religious belief in the Middle Ages and based on nothing but hearsay. Unfortunately this view - that because it hasn't been "proven" in a lab by men in white coats then it must therefore be bollocks - is pretty weak at best.

Firstly, let's not forget that science never has all the answers. Just because we do not know whether or how something works does not mean it doesn't work.

Secondly, there are lots of people for whom these things genuinely work. I know a number of people who have experienced real changes in their health after treatments; I'm not talking about the blind being able to see or a lame man walking but real change for which the beneficiary/patient/client is profoundly happy. These people are not necessarily 'seekers', the kind looking for a kind of quasi-religious or vaguely spiritual answer willing to believe some hokum.

Placebo is a long acknowledged phenomenon, it does not prove or disprove anything. Would you prefer someone to continue to live with pain/distress simply because the treatment is "only placebo"? And how do you know it's solely placebo? Placebo (and Nocebo) can be useful, regardless of context, and to dismiss it as the patient somehow kidding themselves is stupidly denying the incredible power of the mind.

I don't understand this absolute unshakeable belief in the magical ability of GPs and pharmaceuticals. Have you been brainwashed by the CEOs of Bayer et al? Drug companies exist to sell drugs, not to heal people. Statins. What a con! And the side-effects of powerful drugs; do you think they are universally a good thing? And don't get me started on why money for cancer research actually funds massive corporations so they then flog the stuff back to hospitals, even though lots of it doesn't work as it should.

Also, if you believe drugs can mend people, which they clearly can, is it not possible that other things can also effect change? Why can a pill or injection wrk but not anything else? Or do you have knowledge of human anatomy & physiology denied those at working in medical research?

While I have long been labelled a sceptic/cynic, I have the benefit of first hand experience and numerous accounts of 'weirdo' treatments, most notably reflexology. Being married to an highly intelligent, widely read complementary therapist (who also trained as a nurse in the NHS) has shown me that it is plain ignorant to dismiss such things with a closed mind. But if ignorance is your bag Al_S then feel free to ignore me and carry on...

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faceplant [11 posts] 1 year ago
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Simon E, quite frankly you either believe in the scientific method, or you don't. Whilst you can say that science doesn't have all the answers, there actually have been studies done about most of the alternative medicine nonsense, which have shown they have no effect. On the contrary to your statement above, the fact that no affect has been shown via scientific testing is strong, not weak.

You could just as well hand wave it and say "well my nan once ate a wood louse and it cured her appendicitis so therefore woodlice cure appendicitis". In fact if you said that you would be more likely to be right since at least there haven't been any studies disproving such a link (at least I haven't seen any).

As I stated above, and Al_s did too, the placebo effect is real, and can make a real difference to people's lives. But treatments relying it can also be dangerous, for example people relying on homeopathy to cure their cancer.

Yes treatments other than drugs can effect change. However, to determine what works and what doesn't we have scientific double blind testing. Some things have been proven to work. Others, including osteopathy, chiropracty, homeopathy, etc etc, have been proven not to work. It's as simple as that.

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ronin [264 posts] 1 year ago
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I remember a Chinese Acupuncture doctor from France. She felt my wife's pulse and told her that she was pregnant, and indeed she was (she wasn't showing any visible signs of being pregnant at that time).
In Chinese medicine the pulse is measured in a different way, not just bpm. I was at the clinic to be treated not my wife at that time, the doctor was just being friendly.

In martial arts, methods were developed to target certain areas of the body with certain force. Knowledge of human body mechanics and manipulation of nerve function and blood flow. Just as acupuncture does but for beneficial function. Not really complicated, if you have the knowledge.

In essence, learn to cure first before you learn to harm. That is much harder.

That's all for today  4

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faceplant [11 posts] 1 year ago
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ronin wrote:

I remember a Chinese Acupuncture doctor from France. She felt my wife's pulse and told her that she was pregnant, and indeed she was (she wasn't showing any visible signs of being pregnant at that time).
In Chinese medicine the pulse is measured in a different way, not just bpm. I was at the clinic to be treated not my wife at that time, the doctor was just being friendly.

Do you also believe that fortune tellers can see the future? It's easy to trick people in to believing you can do things you can't. See: any magician. Traditional Chinese Medicine is not rigorous and does not produce consistent diagnoses between practitioners. A stronger pulse can indicate pregnancy, but it can also indicate lots of other things. Which is why in modern medicine, it is not used as a diagnostic test for pregnancy.

ronin wrote:

In martial arts, methods were developed to target certain areas of the body with certain force. Knowledge of human body mechanics and manipulation of nerve function and blood flow. Just as acupuncture does but for beneficial function. Not really complicated, if you have the knowledge.

In essence, learn to cure first before you learn to harm. That is much harder.

That's all for today  4

How is martial arts relevant to acupuncture? Martial arts (and I mean real the stuff, not harnessing your chi to one-inch-punch) is the application of force in order to disable an opponent. You'd be more accurate in describing it as the opposite to physiotherapy (which actually works, unlike acupuncture).

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