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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing reality to bear on complementary therapies, 5 Mar. 2011
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This review is from: Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial (Paperback)
Most books dealing with complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) are uncritical: either uncritically accepting (the majority case) or uncritically knocking. This book is different. Edzard Ernst understands the modalities he writes about, and points out where the scientific evidence supports their use and where it doesn't. Along the way he spills a few of the secrets that some will wish had not been aired (such as the dangerous and excessive use of spinal x-rays by chiropractors).

This is a book for people with an open mind who want to understand why CAM often inspires such anger and contempt among the scientific and medical communities. It is well researched, well written and well referenced. It is also very accessible.
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Showing 1-10 of 48 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Feb 2012 13:40:07 GMT
Shiatsushi says:
I must point out some inaccuracies in the book.
On page 326 the authors talk about shiatsu, and they don't seem to know what they are talking about.
They mention Tokujiro Namikoshi as the creator or developer of shiatsu, which is correct, and a bit later they say that shiatsu is based on yin/yang concepts.
For their information, Mr Namikoshi NEVER mentioned yin/yang in all his life or in his writings.
That was done by one of his students 50 years after he had opened his first shiatsu school.

They also say that shiatsu might be dangerous for people who are at risk of suffering a stroke.
This is absolutely true. ANY type of massage - or even going for a run - might trigger the stroke.
However, the implication in the book is that Western Massage is not dangerous, which again is totally untrue.

They claim that shiatsu can hurt people with osteoporosis.
I wrote to Dr Singh asking where they got that information from.
Any scientific studies? Someone mentioned it? Or did they just make it up?
I didn't get a reply. I didn't expect one either. After all, who am I?

And finally, they also mention that there aren't enough clinical trials of shiatsu.
I agreed, but explained that this is because hospitals and research centres don't let us do them.
I challenged them to set up a clinical trial with shiatsu for people with osteoporosis.
I'd gladly participate in such a trial.

This is only from one page in the book. I wonder how many other things they have made up and not researched properly.
Scientific book? Hardly.

Who were the reviewers who wrote the following?

Fearless, intelligent and remorselessly rational (rational?)
- Sunday Times

The authors' combined strengths shine through. The examination of the evidence is comprehensive [and] forensic ... (evidence?)
- Nature

A definitive - if controversial - guide to what works, and what doesn't. It makes indispensable, if sometimes alarming, reading (definitive?)
- Daily Mail


A shiatsu practitioner who believes he knows what he's talking about and does his research when writing about something.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2012 13:54:06 GMT
Guy Chapman says:
I have checked up on the evidence base for shiatsu; it is as follows: "There is no scientific evidence proving that shiatsu is effective at treating any disease".

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2012 14:28:56 GMT
Shiatsushi says:
I had already pointed out they had said that when I mentioned the lack of clinical trials.
So? They still haven't done their research properly (mixing Namikoshi with yin/yang!) and they have made up something about shiatsu and osteoporosis.
ANY scientific evidence there?

Not to mention the implication that Western massage is not dangerous in case of riskof stroke and shiatsu is. ANY scientific evidence there?

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2012 14:50:05 GMT
Guy Chapman says:
Like I said, the independent scientific evidence for shiatsu appears to be zero, exactly as they say. I can't find a single authoritative source that states that shiatsu may only be interpreted as you interpret it. Shiatsu is woo, semantic quibbling about what kind of woo is not really important.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2012 15:18:17 GMT
Shiatsushi says:
I'm going to reply to you, although it's going to be like talking to a wall.
I NEVER said that there was scientific evidence for shiatsu.
ALL I said is that they got their facts mixed up - because they haven't done proper research - and that they MAKE UP, listen again, MAKE UP WITHOUT THE SLIGHTEST SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE, some woo about shiatsu which they call scientific - and just because they are scientists I should believe it, even when they can't prove it.
Now, if you don't like the fact that they've been caught up in a made-up lie, I suggest you write your own book, but this time make sure your biased opinion doesn't go against the historic and scientific evidence, and you stick to the facts. That's something these two authors are incapable of.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2012 15:44:16 GMT
Guy Chapman says:
These are the statements they make about shiatsu:
* It was founded by Tokujiro Namikoshi. That appears to be verifiably correct.
* The therapist uses pressure on acupuncture points. This appears to be a slight simplification, but both theories appear to be drawn from the anatomically unverifiable acupuncture model of physiology.
* Practitioners seek to balance yin and yang. Numerous practitioner websites support this statement; most seem to make some reference to qi, and this is identified as being composed of yin-qi and yang-qi. Since these are fictional constructs there is undoubtedly some debate over interpretation but it does seem to be supported by statements made by practitioners.
* They report potential adverse outcomes including pain and fracture. These are verifiable from published case reports.

As I say, I am sure there are competing interpretations, as for any of these empirically unverifiable modalities, but I don't see that they have failed to research the very fleeting treatment they give shiatsu, only that they have interpreted the information in a way that does not accord with your views.

I don't think they claim that this is scientific, either, only that it is an investigation of various modalities form the perspective of science and the scientific evidence base, which in this case as you acknowledge is wholly absent.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2012 16:45:11 GMT
Shiatsushi says:
You are wrong in most of what you say. Certainly point two is absurd.
Namikoshi shiatsu theory is NOT, repeat in case it's not clear, it's NOT derived from any acupuncture mode of physiology. In fact it talks about the autonomic nervous system.
Did you just make this one up? Or perhaps you just "interpreted" - as the authors of the book - in a differnet way.
But I'm interestd in those "verifiable" published case reports.
Care to mention one? Explaining how they are verifiable, if you don't mind.
And yes, they claim that their whole book is scientific and evidence-based. So I imagine that includes the part about shiatsu, or is that bit excluded from their claims?
And one last thing, yes, I admit that scientific evidence is wholly absent, as it was for many scientific theories throughout history including gravity and relativity, until someone came with proof.
I SAID from the beginning that we are not allowed or given the opportunity to participate in clinical trials.
Solar energy, wind power etc, also lag technologically behind nuclear power and others because no money was given for research in this area.
I hope, that logically, rationally, scientifically speaking, it doesn't mean that these "alternative" energies are not scientific or that they are woo-woo.
And if the authors are so sure about their made-up claim about shiatsu and osteoporosis, why not take up my challenge about a clinical trial?
Too busy thinking up something else?

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2012 18:34:03 GMT
Guy Chapman says:
...according to how it was presented to you. But there are sources which adequately support the version presented by Ernst and Singh, and since none of it is objective or empirically verifiable it is entirely understandable that there are different interpretations and different accounts.

As to clinical trials, that would be the job of those claiming efficacy. That's how the scientific method works. You make a claim, it's your job to back it up. In this case the theory is so plainly wrong that it's unlikely anyone outside the field will bother, it would be "tooth fairy science".

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2012 19:23:48 GMT
Shiatsushi says:
Really? What are those supposed sources?
What theory is plainly wrong? Are you making up theories as they do?
You don't have any more idea than them of what the theory behind shiatsu - I mean the official shiatsu in Japan - is. (And I'm not telling you what the theory is, that's your job to find out if you are truly impartial, but believe me, they got it all wrong)
What they claim about shiatsu and osteoporosis in not objectively or empirically verifiable, but probably I should believe it because you say so, or because they say so.
But in this case it's not tooth fairy science. Of course, how could it be since it supports your views?
And if that's how the scientific method works, then why haven't they backed up their claim that shiatsu is dangerous for osteoporosis. There isn't one single reference or scientific study they mention and they DON'T REPLY to my emails asking them where that information came from.
This is the reply I've had from Dr Hall, an ardent supporter of the book: I can't find any published reports of osteoporotic fractures from shiatsu.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2012 19:37:11 GMT
Guy Chapman says:
The sources are trivially revealed by Googling. You appear to be missing the point which follows necessarily from what you have already conceded: this is an empirically unverifiable modality, therefore there is no objective way of sorting out competing claims, which are ore religious than scientific in nature. The meridian points used in shiatsu do not correspond to any anatomical structures, and the claimed effects on the empirically unverifiable life force cannot be accounted for by any objectively verifiable structures or processes. This is not i the least controversial except to those who make the unverifiable claims.

You seek to cast doubt on the entire book based on your personal view that shiatsu as you understand it is not as they describe it, and your further assertion that this means they have not done their homework. I checked the section, found the core claims they make which you appear to dispute, Googled them and found dozens of shiatsu practitioners making those claims. The fact that people who practice shiatsu believe inconsistent things is not really Ernst & Singh's problem is it? Most of them describe it as a "traditional Japanese" form of "healing", by which almost everyone would assume that it has its roots in Shinto and dates back hundreds or thousand sof years, but it turns out to have been invented from whole cloth in 1912. Ernst and Singh are not the ones misleading the public here.
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