It has often been noted that pseudo-medicines are immune to data. Practices are never abandoned or changed because of information that suggests lack of safety or efficacy.

Pseudo-medicines, as a recent US News article suggests, does not really require data to support it, which is good for its proponents, since such data does not exist. They can be satisfied with anecdote, knowing that it works.

However, when a study is done that fails to show efficacy of a pseudo-medicine such as acupuncture, it is always interesting to watch the authors squirm and try and rationalize their negative results.

No one has never said after a negative study 'looks like acupuncture is useless for this condition.  Stop using it'. That would require a bit of honesty about what is probably a wasted career in acupuncture.

As two recent examples, there is Short-Term Effect of Laser Acupuncture on Lower Back Pain: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind Trial

In reality-based medicine, there is no reason to think laser acupuncture would do anything. And it doesn't. When compared to sham laser acupuncture,

…there was no significant difference in outcomes between the two groups…

When an intervention is equal to placebo, in reality-based medicine we conclude that it has no efficacy. It is why, as an example, we abandoned internal mammary ligation for angina.

But in the non-falsifiable world of pseudo-medicine?

the results suggest that laser acupuncture can provide effective pain alleviation and can be considered an option for relief from lower back pain.

Or take  No Effect of Acupuncture in the Relief of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. People received needle, laser, sham needle, sham laser acupuncture, and no intervention after exercise to see if there was efficacy in treating muscle soreness.

Nope. Didn't work. And why would it? The authors suggest

From a mechanistic point of view, these results have implications for further studies:…the traditional acupuncture regimen, targeting muscle pain, might have been inappropriate as the DOMS mechanisms seem limited to the muscular unit and its innervation.

Or maybe acupuncture does nothing and is inappropriate for any intervention.

And as always negative studies mean bigger, better studies need to be done.

Further studies using long-term intervention, a larger sample size, and rigorous methodology are required to clarify the effect of laser acupuncture on lower back pain.

Only in the world of pseudo-medicine are the results of yet another negative study used as indication for further studies.

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Points of Interest 11/05/2015

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