Oh for crying out loud….. (or, Military Studies Placebo Effect)

Walter Reed Army Medical Center

The crest of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The latin on the crest translates: "If we don't understand the science, we'll try some crazy shit." Image via Wikipedia

Since I’ve been on the subject of junk science, charlatans, and snake-oil lately. I became privy to an article talking about “Battlefield Acupuncture” (quoted from Defense.gov).

It begins:

J.D. Nichols, a retired Navy flight officer and cryptologist, limped into the Air Force Acupuncture Center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland early yesterday morning, leaning heavily on a cane.

A couple of hours later, moving easily without the cane and with the ends of tiny gold needles glittering in both ears, he waved goodbye to the military doctors who had reduced his pain using a technique called battlefield acupuncture.

The doctors, from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, were part of a workshop on the technique developed by Dr. Richard Niemtzow, a retired Air Force colonel who practiced medicine as a radiation oncologist before he studied acupuncture in 1994.

Nichols was one of four patients who volunteered for treatment at the 779th Medical Group’s acupuncture clinic, where Niemtzow and Dr. Stephen Burns, a retired Air Force colonel and full-time Air Force acupuncturist, train military doctors and treat patients.

“I walked yesterday and I barely made it home with the cane. That’s how much pain there was,” Nichols told the doctors after his treatment. “Now I’m walking without pain, as though I didn’t have the problem.”

As if military medicine wasn’t already the laughingstock of the medical community, this elevates them to cult status.

What is next? Reflexology? Firewalking? Alien probes used for their healing effect? Magnets? Snail-ooze treatments? Tantra?

Did you also read carefully? Did you see what Dr. Burns does full-time (and with a government paycheck)? He is a full-time acupuncturist. Courtesy of our current windfall of tax dollars.

Maybe I’m just uneducated. That’s always possible. Let’s see what they say about these wonderful needle penetrations.

Healers in China and other Asian countries have practiced acupuncture for thousands of years. According to traditional Chinese medicine, disease is due to an internal imbalance of the opposing forces of yin and yang. Such an imbalance is believed to lead to a blockage in the flow of qi [pronounced chi], the vital life energy that flows along pathways called meridians, the philosophy says.

Meridians connect all systems in the body through a web-like matrix of at least 2,000 acupuncture points. Acupuncture is believed to unblock that vital energy.

My qi is certainly coursing through meridians right now. It’s all going to my now-red face. It also makes me feel angry.

No, maybe I need some extra qi. So, I called my surgeon buddy and asked for a prescription for extra qi. He laughed at me. I then asked if he had ever seen qi. He had not. I asked if he could call some of his medical school professors and ask them about it. He hung up on me.

Well, we have Mr. Burns siphoning government dollars. At least he is the only one.

Acupuncture is being used as a treatment everywhere in the Defense Department, “but the Air Force led the way with two formal training programs of 20 physicians each,” Baxter said. “The Navy has one training program with 20 physicians and efforts are underway to have another tri-service training program.”

Awwww, crap.

You know, I’m a sucker for peer-reviewed science based on solid, proven principles. In the absence of that, I’m at least OK with something that is in the latter stages of scientific testing and verification. At least you have some objective standards and critical thinking involved.

Why do I care? Because I care about service members. Several times a month, I encounter service members who have been deceived, sold a bill of goods, and swindled. In the short term, their decisions made them feel good–even giddy. In the long-term, it caused them unbelievable suffering.

What ails many of them is the unavailability of qualified doctors. You know, the ones fixing medical problems and not dabbling with blood-letting. They need dedicated, long-term primary care providers to implement health programs and monitor those programs to completion. They do not need placebos to trick them into short-term bliss.

Such is life. I suppose our government has wasted money on worse.

As for now, I must cut this post short. I am late for my colonic cleansing and herbal enema at the Military Hospital near me.