Let's face it: If alternative medicine worked, it wouldn't be called "alternative." It's no shock to find out that remedies involving magic and ghosts don't really make your pain go away. It would be more of a surprise to learn that they do.
Well, surprise! They do! Sort of!
You may not know the theory behind it, but you probably know what acupuncture looks like: Someone lies face down on a bed while a Chinese lady sticks a few dozen needles in his back, and this makes his chronic pain go away. The idea is that the needles are directing the flow of "chi" or life energy around your body, and this causes something or other, and then bingo, you're healed.
"Don't worry. When we insert these needles into your brain, you'll never doubt us again."
How It Sort of Works:
It's probably not very surprising that science has been unable to locate chi energy on any X-Rays. What might be surprising is that despite this, actual scientific studies that don't involve a single "spirit crystal" show that acupuncture actually freaking works. Yes, according to that article in The Wall Street Journal, "neuroimaging studies show that it seems to calm areas of the brain that register pain and activate those involved in rest and recuperation," all of which sounds surprisingly official for a pain-relief method that involves repeated stabbing.
That's actually one theory on how it works. When an acupuncturist sticks a tiny needle in your skin and twirls it around, she's not quite harming you enough to cause real pain, but she is harming you just enough for your body to act in self-defense and release a natural chemical called adenosine, which acts like a local anesthetic.
Those aren't man-boobs, they're chi-sacks.
As a side effect, you also experience relief from whatever else might be ailing you. Of course, this doesn't mean that the process is actually healing you, but it has been shown to treat some pains that Tylenol can't help with. Which is why the world's best hospitals like the Mayo Clinic and Duke University Medical Center now offer acupuncture. Still, most doctors agree that as a general policy, you shouldn't attempt to cure diseases by stabbing them.