Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

What’s the point?

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Are a lot of acupuncture points actually common myofascial trigger points? Probably not. There’s a fairly clear source of the notion of overlap between trigger and acupuncture points: Helene Langevin’s research, particularly from the early 2000s. Although the idea was certainly around before that (I remember from school in the late 90s), her research gave it that “new science” smell. It’s important to understand that Langevin’s work is all about building a case for acupuncture by associating it with the relative respectability of trigger points. She tried to explain the assumed benefits of acupuncture with the theory that some acupuncture points are really just trigger points … ergo acupuncture works. Except (uh oh) it doesn’t. The inability of acupuncture to outperform a placebo has not only been demonstrated in many high quality tests (more about this below), but even in Langevin’s own notoriously acupuncture-friendly paper in NEJM in 2010!