I was reading, and deconstructing, a particularly awful bit of advice for acupuncture by Consumer Reports. It was the same old same old, but it was the source that made it particularly awful. I expect more from Consumer Reports than the uncritical regurgitation of the standard mythical acupuncture narrative. The report included the quote
One possible reason for the benefits of acupuncture: Studies show that it causes us to release feel-good hormones, called endorphins, that suppress pain.
I have never bothered to go back and see what the original literature was to support endorphins as a potential mechanism for a beneficial effect of acupuncture on pain.
That endorphins are released as a result of a noxious stimulus didn’t surprise me; that is what endorphins are for. And endorphins are unlikely to be the mechanism for all the other diseases for which the WHO suggests acupuncture benefits.
To my surprise, my brief search that day came up with very little information on the endorphins and acupuncture.
What I wanted to know was the evidence behind the universal meme that acupuncture releases feel-good hormones. If Consumer Reports says it is so, it must be true, right? So I plugged ‘acupuncture endorphin’ into PubMed and went to work. (more…)