I’ve been doing a bit of research into acupuncture, for a story not for personal use. The problem I’m finding is that most of the literature is unverified information from the web, or published materials from the 70’s onward. Web-based information all seems to suggests that acupuncture is the be-all and end-all of pain treatment and disease management with no side effects and a tradition going back thousands of years. Problem is, that’s BS.
A recent study in Pain compiled a list of 95 published reports of serious complications of acupuncture including 5 deaths. While acupuncturists keep reassuring the world that they are safe, their practice has been seeping into the news over the last few years with one of the biggest headline coming from a former President of South Korea who had to have surgery to remove an acupuncture needle that had somehow lodged in his lung.
I’m sure we all know the actual origins of acupuncture as a form of blood-letting not dissimilar to that practices in the west. Blood-letting has been practised in just about every civilization and (infection risks aside) can be effective treatment in a small number of conditions. Unfortunately the problem is that you can’t put the infection risks aside, and with that in mind blood letting is usually a BAD idea. Especially in a medieval setting with little understanding of germ therapy. Acupuncture itself has not been proven to work in most of its applications, or been proven not to work at all. (Not to paraphrase Tim Minchin (see below) at all)
Still might be using acupuncture in my story, but I think placebo effects or transmission of infectious diseases makes for more interesting and realistic themes then where I was originally going.