Things have been too serious lately, what with learning about how prevalent belief in cancer quackery is, finding out how public health officials in California feel about bogus medical exemptions to school vaccine mandates, and the success of a program to train “integrative oncology” health professionals; so I was looking for a break. Then I saw this, the Yogi Jacket:
I've seen silly stuff in my young career… but this is in the top 3 for "most ludicrous". An ACUPRESSURE JACKET. This has "L.A." written all over it. @gorskon @McGillOSS @CaulfieldTim @PrismPodcast @MrMMarsh @AliceEmmaLouise @AlanLevinovitz pic.twitter.com/xzLU9L6FoE
— Jonathan Jarry (@crackedscience) October 31, 2018
It turns out that the source for this jacket, which claims to provide acupressure all over your torso, is a Kickstarter campaign, The Yogi Jacket: Naturally relieve pain and reduce stress, with the claim that “Yogi Jacket’s 7,000+ acupressure spikes support you in reaching a deep state of relaxation to elevate your overall well-being.”
And here they are:
Acupressure spikes? That sounds painful. Don’t worry, though, the makers of Yogi Jacket assures us that it’s the greatest thing since…well…acupuncture! They’re seeking $20,000 to get their product to market. Just check out this slick video that accompanies the Kickstarter appeal:
I love how it starts out by saying that over 70% of us experience stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. (Only 70%?) I also love how it talks about “over 7,000 strategically placed nontoxic plastic spikes.” (What a relief that they’re nontoxic.) Then, of course, there’s the acupuncturist, a very crunchy-looking bespectacled woman, blathering about how this “stimulates” acupuncture points and “energy centers” in the body to provide a sense of happiness and comfort. Of course, when I looked at the jacket (photo below), it looked to me as though there were basically plastic spikes everywhere. So how would anyone know whether the spikes were stimulating acupuncture points versus non-acupuncture points, given that pretty much the whole back (at least) is covered. I assume that these spikes line the arms and front of the jacket as well.
On the Yogi Jacket Kickstarter page, Hayley Gardner, the acupuncturist featured in the video, tells us:
The body runs on electricity? Not quite. The body runs on chemical reactions, some of which are electrochemical and produce voltage gradients across cell membranes that can be used for signaling (as in the nervous system). It doesn’t have wires running through it or electricity flowing through it, at least not in the way people commonly understand. As for acupuncture and acupressure, as I’ve discussed more times than I can remember, it’s theatrical placebo. It doesn’t matter if you stick the needles in. It doesn’t matter where you stick the needles. Neither acupuncture nor acupressure have any specific effects for anything.
So who created the Yogi Jacket? It’s a guy by the name of Tanveer Grewal:
A few years ago, I was in front of a computer for 10-12 hours a day. Then, in the fall of 2015, I was suffering from back pain and low energy. The long hours in front of a computer had taken a toll on my health. I tried dozens of natural products and therapies, but the clear winner was Acupressure therapy and meditation, which worked wonders to relieve my back pain and reduce stress.
Acupressure therapy can get really expensive from a licensed acupuncturist, the spike mats are too bulky to carry everywhere and you have to dedicate a separate time and space to get the desired benefits…not to mention that most of them lie somewhere in a corner, gathering dust.
To have something readily accessible on the go, I designed the Yogi Jacket in my own basement and started consistently incorporating it into my daily routine at home, work and everywhere I went. I experienced increased energy levels, more alertness, reduction in stress and back pain, improved quality of my sleep along with various other benefits.
Or maybe just sending some time away from the computer to think and meditate and having someone, in essence, gently touch his body account for his feeling a lot better and the resolution of his back pain. Included with Grewal’s account is a picture of a prototype in which he had glued—yes, glued—all those little plastic spikes, which came from a spike mat, into the back of a hoodie. A spike mat, for those of you unfamiliar with them, are mats with plastic circles from which project small plastic spikes; they’re frequently used for acupressure. There’s not a lot of evidence regarding spike mats, but one study did show that they don’t alleviate chronic pain or improve sleep, but might reduce the worst peaks of pain. Naturally, it was a small study without a control group. Again, what I don’t understand is how this could be acupressure, which is defined as using pressure on acupuncture points, when these little spikes are all over these mats (and the Yogi Jacket) and thus would be “stimulating” mostly non-acupuncture points, but then that’s just me, I guess. Of course, there is at least one randomized study, but it had no sham acupressure group and is therefore useless.
So what can the Yogi Jacket do, according to Grewal? Not surprisingly, the health claims are rather…diffuse, as this press release shows:
With the Yogi Jacket, self-healing is possible. Today the innovative acupressure jacket has launched on Kickstarter with a funding goal of $20,000.
Comprised of over 7,000 spikes, the Yogi Jacket provides the feel and benefits of a professional acupressure treatment for a fraction of the price. The jacket works by relieving back pain and promotes relaxation of tense muscles throughout the day, ultimately increasing blood circulation.
There’s even a nice little graphic to let you know how awesome the Yogi Jacket is:
I wonder how wearing a jacket with tiny plastic spikes boosts one’s creativity. Perhaps it hurts so much that it forces one to become more creative. However, I’d think that having all those little spikes might cause more, not less, stress. But who am I to say? I’m just a dumb cancer surgeon who questions the grandeur of vitalistic forms of “medicine” like acupuncture, acupressure, and products that claim to use acupuncture points.
Looking at this jacket, I had a number of questions? How do you keep the little spikes from catching on your clothes as you put the jacket on and take it off? Why 7,000 spikes. If you use the rule of nines, you can estimate that the percentage of your body surface area taken up by the arms and the torso is slightly less than 54%, and a typical human has a surface area of between 1.5 and 2 square meters, or 16.1-21.5 sq ft., meaning that a jacket covers roughly 8.7 to 11.6 sq. ft. With 7,000 minispikes, the Yogi Jacket thus has roughly 700 spikes per square foot or 5 spikes per square inch. (It’s actually slightly more than that, given that the rule of nines includes the hands, which are not covered by this jacket and the area of the hands should be subtracted. from the area covered. However, I’ve already gotten wonky enough here. I’m only interested in rough estimates; so this is good enough.) True, the spikes are not evenly distributed, given how they are placed on little plastic disks along the outside, but, still, that doesn’t leave a lot of space between the spikes, which would cover and “stimulate” basically the entire
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this product, once launched, took off and sold like hotcakes, particularly in the more woo-prone parts of the country, like Portland, Los Angeles, and similar areas. Truly, the Yogi Jacket is one of the most woo-tastic things I’ve seen in quite a while