Complementary and alternative medicine Friday Woo Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Bonus pre-Christmas Friday Woo: Give the gift of woo for Christmas, courtesy of Duke University

It occurred to me. For someone looking for last minute Christmas gifts for the credulous, perhaps the Chi Machine, which I mentioned this morning, won’t fit the bill. One thing about it is that it’s too limited in what it can do, and if I’m going to give the gift of woo for Christmas, I really want to give the gift of woo.

That’s why I’m really grateful to a regular reader who, for reasons that will become obvious, will probably want to remain nameless, who turned me on to another great gift for the holidays. Even better, it comes from a most unexpected source. Yes, with the help of Duke University’s Integrative Medicine Program, you can give the gift of woo for the holidays by purchasing a gift certificate, good for some grade A primo woo. Even better, it’s academically endorsed by Duke University, which means that it has to work. After all, a high-powered research institution like Duke wouldn’t sell you this stuff if the modalities didn’t have a sound basis in science and clinical trials behind them, would it?

Of course not. Perish the thought that it’s a marketing gimmick.

Be that as it may, though, you can use these fabulous gift certificates to get what looks like, in essence, a spa treatment (which at least will make you feel good, with a massage or or sauna treatment). But that isn’t really woo. Fortunately, for the credulous who get one of these gift certificates, Duke Integrative Medicine offers a veritable cornucopia of real woo, including acupuncture and even reiki therapy (one of the woo-iest of woos). Not enough for you? Duke even offers reflexology, a discipline that tells us that every disease humans suffer is some how linked to various points on the feet and hands and that by massaging those points the body can be cleansed of toxin and conditions as diverse as anemia, earaches, heart disease and kidney stones treated. Of course, if you go into it looking at reflexology as nothing more than a glorified foot massage with delusions of grandeur, then you’ll probably find it relaxing. Just don’t expect any diseases to be cured.

Not enough woo? How about polarity therapy, whatever that is? The brochure describes it as “working with the body’s energies through light touch,” but who knows what that means? I had never heard of it before, which is surprising, given how long I’ve been at this. So I went to the source, so to speak, the American Polarity Therapy Association, which states:

A blend of modern science and complementary medicine, Polarity Therapy is a comprehensive health system involving energy-based bodywork, diet, exercise and self-awareness. Scientifically, it works with the Human Energy Field, electromagnetic patterns expressed in mental, emotional and physical experience. In Polarity Therapy, health is viewed as a reflection of the condition of the energy field, and therapeutic methods are designed to balance the field for health benefit. There are 3 types of energy fields in the human body: Long line currents that run north to south on the body; Transverse currents that run east-west in the body; and spiral currents that start at the navel and expand outward.

In the healing arts, Polarity Therapy is special in its comprehensive exploration of the different dimensions of the human condition (physical, mental and emotional). Polarity Therapy seeks to bridge the full spectrum of body, mind and spirit: the body is designed by nature to heal itself. Polarity Therapy assists in this natural occurrence). Applying the Polarity Therapy system can take diverse forms, always based on the underlying intention to support the client’s inherent self-healing intelligence as expressed in its energetic patterns.

In other words, polarity therapy is every bit as much much woo as reiki therapy. Thanks, APTA! Now I know.

You know, as a surgeon, it depresses the hell out of me to see Duke University supporting this sort of stuff. The reason is simple. The Department of Surgery at Duke University is one of the most prestigious and academic departments there ever was. Indeed, just thinking about the Duke Integrative Medicine program makes me wonder what Dr. David Sabiston, Jr. (the editor of a ubiquitous surgical textbook, as well), who ruled the department from 1964-1994 and produced arguably more department chairs of surgery than any other program. He did it through a highly rigorous clinical training program in which you were “done” when Dr. Sabiston thought you were done, coupled with lots of laboratory research experience. In fact, the Duke surgical residency program used to be referred to in the surgery biz as a “decade with Dave” because it often took a decade to complete. Indeed, under his tenure, the Duke surgery program was legendary and arguably the best in the nation. Certainly it was considered one of the top three or so.

Looking at how Duke has started to promote stuff like this, I wonder what Dr. Sabiston thinks of the Integrative Medicine program at Duke. I bet he never thought his beloved institution would be offering gift certificates for woo for the holidays.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

Comments are closed.


Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading