Letter to the editor – response to Globe and Mail article defaming Acupuncture

Below is a Letter to the editor of The Globe and Mail which we sent in response to an article with disparaging remarks about Acupuncture.  Feel free to use part or all of the letter to contact the G&M yourself.  Or review the resources to gain further information for yourself and your clients regarding studies into the efficacy of acupuncture. 

After reading the piece by Leah McLaren referencing the “woo woo” that this particular writer experienced in her privileged explorations, it’s clear that, on a few fronts, she failed to conduct thorough research—thereby misleading her readers. Specifically, we’ll address the issues with the article as they pertain to Acupuncture.

In 2013, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine became regulated in Ontario, as they are in many provinces across the country. The process of education and regulation for practitioners practicing these disciplines is rigorous and extensive.

As well, Acupuncture, particularly Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture, is accepted by the World Health Organization as a complete system of medicine that stands on its own merits. In Ontario, Acupuncture must abide by the strict guidelines set out by its own regulatory College, CTCMPAO, and the Regulated Health Professions Act, which governs all regulated health care professions in the province.

There are many things that point to the efficacy of acupuncture, not the least of which is its long history of use in Asian cultures. Transplanted to the Western world, the techniques have been tested extensively and there has been a marked rise in evidence-based research for acupuncture. In fact, there has been a significant increase in randomized clinical trials (RCTs) (Ma et al., 2016) with strong evidence supporting the efficacy of acupuncture for many conditions, such as migraines, low back pain, post-operative pain, and rhinitis (McDonald and Janz 2017) to name only a few. Further, acupuncture is used in hospital settings and is seen in many parts of the world as an effective treatment to help reduce the destructive opioid epidemic.

This is a medicine that has survived and grown over thousands of years and proves to be a valued service. It is not a fad and did not come from privilege, though we concede that many privileged individuals are the ones who keep clinics busy in the Western world. However, the rise in community acupuncture and pay-what-you-can clinics points to the effort that many acupuncturists are personally making to ensure that care is more accessible to all. If the writer was serious and interested in critiquing the white-washing of medicine in general, especially as pertains to the capitalist-based approach to health care – a system that discriminates at all levels – she could perhaps query why people choose to be treated by Acupuncture instead of more conventional approaches like pharmaceuticals.

Addressing the issue of privilege in health care is important, perhaps it truly was what the author wanted to do, but what she did was use oppression and inaccessibility as an excuse to denigrate a system of medicine.

For so many reasons, it is terribly misleading to the public and professionally disrespectful to a complete body of medicine to brush off acupuncture as “woo woo”: because of its use in hospital settings; because of its continued growth around the world as an accessible medicine that can treat a wide variety of conditions; because of its regulation by our provincial governments.

As a further point of interest, one might look at the research on the issues of using opioids vs acupuncture for the treatment of pain (eg, Shaheed et al. 2016). One might be surprised and find credible fodder for the next article on how Canadians are being bamboozled to take more medications than their physical bodies can actually tolerate, causing diseases that are worse in the long run that the one they started with.


Renee Pilgrim, R.Ac, R.TCMP, Co-Chair of TCMO

Stephanie Campbell, R.Ac, Co-Chair of TCMO

Elyse Tera, B.A., L.Ac, Dipl. Ac (NCCAOM)

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