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The great-power gambit

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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 PainScience.com: a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Practitioners of alternative medicine often imply that they have “great power” by talking up their “great responsibility” to avoid the dangerous side-effects of their allegedly potent methods. It’s a self-serving way to inflate the perception of potency while seeming adult and professional about it! It’s also an easy position to defend, because it makes critics seem reckless — you have to be quite sure of your facts to warn people to ignore a safety warning! With the Great-Power Gambit, “everyone wins” except the truth.

Unsurprisingly, the actual harms of alternative medicine tend to get ignored, while mainly the more fanciful ones are exploited for this purpose.

A classic example of the GPG: Massage therapists earnestly warning each other and their clients not to rub certain acupuncture points because it might “induce labour” in pregnant women. Um, no, it won’t. And the idea that it can — especially so easily that anyone needs to worry about it — is pure fanciful hubris. No normal massage can “induce” any labour that wasn’t already teetering on the edge anyway. The only people in danger of going into labour in a massage therapy office were in danger of it whether they were there for a massage or not.

Also, even acupressure and acupuncture specifically intended to induce labour does not work: see Smith et al.

 I've added this to my big list of massage myths.

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