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April 14, 1999

Acupuncture and Amitriptyline for HIV-Related Peripheral Neuropathic Pain

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Deputy EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Interim CoeditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1999;281(14):1270-1272. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-281-14-jac90002

To the Editor: There are 2 kinds of acupuncture. One is a modern procedure based on scientific data, the other is a mystic ritual of ancient Chinese metaphysics. Dr Shlay and colleagues1 used the second type and found it to be no better than placebo. Such acupuncture is the kind practiced by the 10,000 mostly nonmedical acupuncturists in the United States. Chinese needle acupuncture is explained by 3000-year-old prescientific theories. Illness is supposedly caused by blockages of Qi, "the elixir of life," traveling in 12 hypothetical meridians corresponding to the Chinese 12 divisions of the day. Needles are selectively placed in 365 acupoints, 1 for each day of the year, following laws of the 5 elements, wood, water, fire, metal, and earth. Acupuncture unblocks Qi, thus curing illness and restoring the balance of yin and yang.

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