Monday, September 01, 2008

Trick or Treatment

It's been a while since I've reviewed a book on my blog. Primarily, because I really haven't read much in the last couple months. I have been reading, but most of the books have been on how to play the guitar and not really good subject of book reviews. Victoria checked out a few book that she thought I'd like. Wanting a little break from the guitar, I started reading the first one yesterday.
Trick or Treatment is a very thorough study of several of the more popular trends in alternative medicine. The first chapter is a history of the scientific method and a lesson on how we discover what works and what doesn't. The authors focus on what they refer to as evidence-based medicine. All the anecdotes and sales pitches mean nothing if the treatments don't stand up to rigorous scientific testing. Lets put the superstition, snake oil and wishful thinking aside and focus strictly on the facts.
The remaining chapters of the book deal with the top four of alternative therapies; acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbal remedies. So far I've only read the chapter on acupuncture. But if they handle the other chapters as thoroughly as they did acupuncture I know I will enjoy them.
I was very pleased that the authors did not start out with an agenda. Their only loyalty is to the evidence. Honestly, I was a little surprised that they had anything positive to say about acupuncture at all. After finding no evidence of the alleged mechanism of acupuncture, chi'i, I expected them to just conclude that the entire practice was based on a flawed understanding of human physiology. While they admitted there is no evidence of chi'i and that the very nature of acupuncture negates a true double-blind test they did say that in certain cases it does promote pain relief. Until somebody figures out a way to truly double-blind test acupuncture it may be impossible to tell weather this is a real effect of the treatment or if it is placebo.
I'll give a complete review after I finish the book. In a day and age when Jenny McCarthy is telling us to just trust her "mommy instinct" and not vaccinate our kids it is refreshing to read a book that bases its conclusions on evidence and not just emotion, anecdotal evidence and superstition.

1 comment:

  1. As one who has had acupuncture for headaches and shoulder pain, etc. and one who assisted Dr. Sung when she administered acupuncture to numerous patients,I know without a double blind study that it works for some pain. I also know that there are a myriad of claims that are bogus. My doctor was firm in treating only pain about after over 30 years of practice she knew which type of pain it worked on and which it did not. She was an MD, many acupuncturists are not - there is a difference. She wanted the State Medical Board to insist that all acupuncturist have a medical license but her view did not prevail, sadly.
    Jenny McCarthy has influenced many parents not to vaccinate their children and it has already caused severe outbreaks of previously controlled childhood diseases. This is not over yet. It looks like it might get worse before sanity returns.