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Development of a new sham needle
  1. Jongbae Park1,
  2. Adrian White1,
  3. Hyejung Lee2,
  4. Edzard Ernst3
  1. 1
    Department of Complementary Medicine, University of Exeter
  2. 2
    Postgraduate School of East & West Medicine, Kyung Hee University, 1 Hoigidong, Dongdaemoongu, Seoul, South Korea
  3. 3
    Department of Complementary Medicine, University of Exeter
  1. Department of Complementary Medicine, School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, 25 Victoria Park Road, Exeter EX2 4NT UK, Email: a.r.white{at}


The problem of providing an acupuncture placebo that is indistinguishable from genuine needling has appeared insurmountable. However, the authors have developed an apparatus, the Park sham needle unit, which is intended to match what an acupuncture-naïve subject expects to see and experience with needling, but is intended not to produce the specific needling sensation (deqi) that is felt with true needling. This can still not be regarded as a true placebo since skin contact must be made for verisimilitude and there may thus be some physiological stimulation. Nonetheless this form of sham acupuncture should be considered an advance on all previously used methods.

The apparatus consists of a blunted needle, the shaft of which telescopes into the handle when tapped, so that, while the needle appears to have been inserted, it does not actually pierce the skin. The needle is held in place by a standard guide tube contained within a fitted sheath with basal ring that is secured to the skin with double sided sticky tape.

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