A few days ago, I had the good fortune to share lunch and ideas with David Gorski and Kimball Atwood. Kimball was on his way from a talk at Michigan State to one at Brigham and Women’s, one of the country’s best-known teaching hospitals. David was planning a future talk for a group in Florida. These guys have been thinking and writing about alternative medicine for a lot longer than I, and it was great to pick their brains, toss around ideas, and just hang out on a nice fall day.
We were discussing many of the inanities of so-called alternative medicine touted for use in “real” diseases, that is, not just symptomatic care. There have been, for example, an number of studies out of China in the last few years claiming that acupuncture helps with in-vitro fertilization. All of these studies have been terribly flawed, and the reasons for these flaws are interesting, but irrelevant beside the primary flaw: the ideas are so implausible as to render any conclusions invalid. It is very difficult to understand how acupuncture in any of its forms could improve chances of conception, either in vivo or in vitro.
During our visit, Kimball brought up a rather interesting analogy: if acupuncture could increase fertility, shouldn’t it also be able to decrease it? We have scads of alternative treatments for the common cold, back pain, headache, multiple sclerosis, diabetes—everything, really. Why not contraception? After all, no one likes condoms, and the pill comes with its own baggage. Nuva rings and IUDs are convenient, but can be annoying to use, or can cause problems in certain patients. And almost all contraception relies solely on the woman. The only possible contribution a man can make is condom use or vasectomy.
Where is the alternative medicine community? They are usually pretty keen on getting involved in common medical problems. Undesired pregnancy is a common problem. Where are the studies on acupuncture for contraception? Homeopathy? Chiropractic?
How would these treatments look? Acupuncture could perhaps stimulate the qi involved with spermatogenesis, causing a feedback inhibition, right? Homeopathy, well, if a lot of sperm heading to the egg are the cause of pregnancy, then a little bit of sperm should do the trick I’d think. You could even put them in a lozenge. And with vertebral subluxations able to cause all manner of medical problems, shouldn’t a good chiropractor be able to shove around a vertebra, impeding sperm production or release? Contraception is big business. Where are these guys?
Let me very clear that I am a traditionalist when it comes to contraception, preferring those methods that have been proven safe and effective. I don’t give medical advice online, but I might make an exception here.
Speaking of implausible, after looking at some of Kimball’s slides, I wanted to do this just for giggles.
Common cuts of beef vs. Reflexology chart