Once again I find myself muscling in on Orac’s territory. I passed through Foley, Alabama, a few times over the holidays, and on one trip I noticed a shop advertising “ear stapling” for smoking cessation and weight loss.
According to the Ear Stapling Association, the procedure is derived from ancient Chinese acupuncture.
An interesting claim from the site…
“Ear stapling has been around for decades. It has been scientifically proven that different points in the ear demonstrate high electricity that is related to different points of the body. When the body is stressed, unbalanced, or even diseased, an increase of energy is put out. In theory, energy flow is enhanced to this area of the body. This is how the staple works, by tapping into the energy flow called Chi.”
Naturally the claim that “It has been scientifically proven that different points in the ear demonstrate high electricity that is related to different points of the body” doesn’t include a reference. Don’t they know that when you make a claim of scientific support, you’re supposed to identify the source? Ads for pharmaceuticals are covered with fine print referring to the studies conducted to prove that their products are both safe and effective. Unfortunately, purveyors of woo are held to a much lower standard.
Here’s another good give-away quote…
“It is believed that one ear is more effective than the other.”
When people start telling you about something that “is believed” without specifying who believes it and why they believe it, you know you’re dealing with a claim that has no legitimate supporting evidence.
“Ear Stapling is perfectly safe and there are no side effects regarding any medical condition.”
The safety claim is quite valid; useless treatments are quite often harmless treatments. Ear stapling is certainly no more dangerous than a cosmetic ear piercing, and millions of people have gotten those without harm. It’s also a no-brainer that ear stapling should have no medical side effects, since there’s no evidence that it has any medical effects at all, good or bad.
“Within the first seven days 90% of our participants report an average weight loss of 4-5 pounds. Our participants that wish to stop smoking have reported to us that within the first 24 hours their craving for cigarettes is cut almost in half.”
I daresay the results are probably the same for any other placebo; people tend to be motivated immediately after they’ve undergone a painful and costly procedure to help them with a specific behavioral problem. Of course, Dr. Martinez doesn’t provide any long-term success statistics for his patients. Information like that would probably be damning, if it were collected and examined properly.
Ear stapling is a good way to lose some money and take a small risk of infection to accomplish nothing of consequence.