Originally Posted by otggwmfs
I think the problem is, how do you have a placebo treatment for something like acupuncture? How can you discern whether it's the acupuncture itself that helps patients, or the idea that someone is taking care of them and the belief that they will get better because they are 'treating it?
There are several good placebos that can be used for acupuncture. As music2doc states, sham acupuncture is a good one; it involves putting the needles at random sites instead of the official ones. Another good placebo involves sham needles. Acupuncture needles usually come in a small sleeve. Placebo needles come in a sticky sleeve that adheres to the skin, while the needles are shorter and duller, and don't penetrate the skin. From looking at the outside of the sleeve, there's no way to tell if the needle has gone in. Apparently the sensation is quite similar for the patient.
The general pattern with acupuncture studies is that the better the study design, the better the placebo control group, and the larger the number of subjects, the more likely the study is to find that there's no effect. The studies that do find a large effect are overwhelmingly small studies with poor control groups that are done by acupuncture proponents and/or come out of China. I don't think it's hard to look at this pattern and come to a conclusion about the efficacy of acupuncture.