Pssst! Needle-Free Acupuncture: Reality-Free Bullshit


Mind Body Wallet Bullshit Spirit festivals are an endless source of textbook woo – be it past-life regressionists taking people back to prehistoric times, psychics claiming to have been involved in all manner of police investigations, or dowsers explaining that wooden dowsing rods work because wood naturally seeks out water. Come to think of it, I’ve seen all of those things – in the very same room. They really do have to be seen to be believed.

Often, the contents of a MBWBS event tend to vary from the silly, to the deceptive, to the outright ridiculous and offensive – that’s relatively standard fare, really. Sometimes, however, an exhibitor is thrown up that’s simply and utterly dangerous – and it was the charming practitioners from Innersound that filled the role at the last festival I visited. (Listeners to our Skeptics With A K podcast will already know all about Innersound and their needle-free ‘Qi’ therapy).

Before you all dash off to Google Innersound and check out their woo-filled website (don’t worry, I’ll be doing that for you in a bit anyway), let me first explain to you how I came across them initially. Wandering around said MBWBS event, checking out the various stalls, I got chatting to an elderly Korean woman with a massage table. She explained to me that, due to fear in the West over the use of needles, she was giving people the chance to try needle-free acupuncture. Or ‘acu’, you might call it. Obviously, I was intrigued, I was mystified, and above all I was skeptical. “How do you do acupuncture without needles?”, I thought.

“How do you do acupuncture without needles?” I asked her.

“Oh, it’s simple – we use sound vibrations applied along acupressure points, which resonate with the frequencies of our own bodies, so that they interact with the healing centre of our inner core and unlock the healing energy within”, she replied (or words to that effect – her knowledge of English was relatively poor. Although, relative to her knowledge of medicine, she was Stephen Fry-fluent).

Following that *slight* hint of bullshit, I inevitably asked her a few questions, the usual go-to skeptical questions when faced with nonsense pseudo-medicine: Can you cure cancer? (Answer: “We can, but we usually don’t, but if you came to us with cancer we would”). What’s your greatest success to date? (Answer: “We’re a charity, and we’ve sent people around Africa to help with HIV AIDS”).

At this point, you might be wondering what Innersound actually is – I know I was. The wishy-washy descriptions of needle-free Qi and sound vibrations sounded… well, far from sound. So I stuck around, visited a few stalls, and waited until the next poor sucker got taken in by her, so I could witness it for myself. It was around 15 minutes later when I heard the practitioner at work…

Pssht. Pssst. Pssssssht.

“Excellent”, I thought, “They’re using some kind of mechanical device to make the noise. Perhaps it’s like a little motor, pressing against the skin, making that noise as it spins.”

Oh no. No, no no. I was wrong.

I walked over to the table, to see the masseuse feeling a woman’s back for acupressure points, before pushing his thumb into the acupressure point hard… and saying ‘Psssht’. With his mouth. And his lips. Psssht.

Now, just to be clear, this isn’t a valid therapy. In case I needed to point it out – it’s bullshit. Where’s the harm? Insomnia. Cancer. AIDS. Pssht! Pssht! Pssht!

Unsurprisingly, the company’s website stays clear backing up the claims made in person to help cure cancer. Instead, we’re offered standard, vague case studies, such as:

My name is Patricia and I am 50 years of age.

I was diagnosed and underwent lumpectomy and axilor limph removal. I had 6 months of chemotherapy treatment.During this period I started to receive Qi Treatments which I found really helpful. I felt more energetic and more at peace. I was really surprised at how easy the rest of chemotherapy went and I did not have any side effects. Even my back pains went away completely.

I am now going through radiotherapy treatments and I am receiving Ki Treatments again once a week. It is helping me a lot. I have no side effects and I am feeling happy and full of energy.

Patricia  50 – London

The best we’re given is the idea that the treatments offer ‘peace’ and ‘energy’ – all very nebulous and unquantifiable. Not so for the HIV claim, where we’re offered quantifiable proof that the Pssshting is beneficial:

Has been HIV+ for 12 years.  Normal CD4 count for the last 12 years has been 320 3 weeks ago after a blood test it was 590.

This result is after 8 Qi Treatments and 7 training classes. It is incredible!

Physically I feel more energised, happier and content with life. I would like to carry on further treatments and training class to improve my health and avoid infections to my body in the future.

– Anonymous

Needle-free acupuncture and magic-breathing increases CD4 levels dramatically, it seems! If only there were something more than a badly-written 3 paragraph testimonial attributed to an anonymous source to back that up, before this ‘charity’ started taking their show on the road. Like, for example, science? Plausibility? Proof?

Looking through the other areas where Innersound can help, we see a rag-tag mix of the nonsensical, dangerous and downright baffling. I can understand how the mind-over-matter elements of a mystical placebo-activator could help with Back Pain, Asthma and Tired(ness), but it’s dangerous to believe this mystical-thinking can help prevent allergic reactions, and it’s shockingly exploitative to promote it for help with Grief (really fucking disturbing stuff), Hepatitis (see first anecdote) and severe Heart Conditions in an 8-month old baby. Digest that – an 8-month old baby with severe heart conditions. Pssht. Sickening.

As for the supporting evidence for preventing Strokes, we’re told:

I visited the Mind Body and Spirit exhibition where I met Innersound.  On that day I knew that I had raised blood pressure because I was feeling very dazed.  I was very sure that I was having a stroke.

Since joining Innersound I have not had a raised blood pressure episode.  I would like to say my job is now more stressful than it ever was, but I am convinced that the reason I have not gone under is because of the treatment, training classes and support I get from the masters at the centre.

So, essentially, her story is: “I thought I was going to have a stroke, and then I didn’t have a stroke, and I put that down to the magic man and his pssshting.”

As for the outright baffling, how do they suggest needle-free acupuncture will help cure Broken Bones, Fractures, Eyesight problems, old age, Outstanding Performance (?!) and Pregnancy. What’s more, I don’t want to know where they press to help deal with Infertility.

What theory is Innersound Qi based on? You’ll not be surprised to hear it’s based on the usual unscientific nonsense. Specifically:

A healthy human body has an abundant and continuous flow of energy which supports all the physical functions. This energy is pumped through a network of energy channels similar to the way that blood is pumped by the heart and flows through the veins. Energy is pumped by the human battery, located just beneath the navel, and flows through energy meridians to all organs and cells.

Suffice to say, nothing has ever suggested there’s a ‘human battery’ located beneath the navel. That’s gibberish of the highest, most unscientific order.

From an eastern point of view, there are only two causes of ill-health – a shortage of energy and energy blockages. When we are short of energy, our body doesn’t have the energy it needs to function effectively bringing fatigue, pain and stress and leading to increasing imbalances and symptoms of ill-health.

Note – neither of the ‘only’ causes of ill-health include disease, germs, bacteria, viruses, genetic defects and predispositions, bad diet, lack of exercise, environmental factors, radiation or the million other ways we know ill-health comes about. This is ancient, disproven, childish gibberish. That they’re exporting to Africa to cure AIDS, and that they’re using here in the UK to offer alternatives to people generally desperate for help.

This might all sound like grumpy, curmudgeonly banging on a drum against something harmless, or silly. Perhaps you’re right. However, I witnessed people being Pssshted, falling for this ludicrous claptrappery, and if even one person with cancer, HIV, hepatitis or something similarly serious is convinced to believe in this Qi, then it’s one person too many.

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  1. #1 by Zeno on April 6, 2010 - 11:01

    “This might all sound like grumpy, curmudgeonly banging on a drum against something harmless, or silly.”

    No. It may be silly, but preying on the vulnerable, gullible or ignorant is far from harmless. It is dangerous and unethical.

  2. #2 by bob dezon on April 6, 2010 - 12:02

    Pssht!take , obviously.

  3. #3 by Jon d on April 6, 2010 - 15:32

    Is it some sort of legal loophole that allows fraud to openly take place providing it’s in a rented convention centre? Having been dragged to one of those fairs by the X I’m wondering how you managed to zoom in on just one quack treatment. Most of the punters at the one I went to looked like affluent new age worried well types but there were a few quite clearly very poorly people being conned
    by the salesmen/women of unproved and expensive gadgets.
    Disgusting really, I wondered if there was any way of sanctioning the owners of the halls where these ripoff shows take place?

  4. #4 by Stu on April 6, 2010 - 22:19

    Why can’t people just keep an open mind about things they have no understanding of?

  5. #5 by V B Frederick on May 16, 2010 - 13:00

    I feel compelled to respond to this article after having a free Qi Innersound session from one of their practitioners at a symposium in London. I have a movement disorder called dyskinesia which resulted from a prescription for a “scientifically proven, valid, approved” drug – given to me for a muscle twitch. For 5 years I have not been able to sleep through the night because the fitting wakes me up. I had one Qi Innersound treatment yesterday and for the first time since my illness, slept straight through the night with no fits. Do I need scientific validation? No. I shall travel to London to have more sessions to see if there are more improvements. Scepticism is good but an open mind can make the difference between one’s healing and a lifetime of taking “valid, approved” drugs plus additonal drugs to combat side effects.

  6. #6 by Michael Behan on May 16, 2010 - 16:51

    I tried the innersound treatment in London yesterday at the symposium. Beforehand I too was very suspicious and sceptical. After 15 minutes treatment and the after effects I think it is great and will be going to their London center next week. I notice that Marsh who posted the critcism did not try the treatment, he only watched. That is an unscientific approach.

  7. #7 by David, UK on October 29, 2010 - 23:37

    Good article. I work as a medical claims assessor for a large insurance company, and it always pains me that we actually offer acupuncture (with the needles) as a policy benefit (usually a maximum of 10 sessions per policy year). So I have to sit there on the phone saying “That’s fine Mrs Smith, I’m happy to cover you for ten sessions of acupuncture for your cervical disc disorder.” Like sticking frigging needles in your body is going to cure ANYTHING. Jeez. And you know, in my 7-year career, NOT ONCE have I seen anyone get fixed by acupuncture. They always keep coming back every year saying “the pain’s returned, I need more acupuncture – will you cover me?” Sure, it’s cheaper than surgery so if you wanna just claim for that bullshit treatment, I’ll cover it.
    @ #4 Stu: Open mind? I suppose you have an open mind about the tooth fairy and goblins too. Sucker.
    @ #5 V B Fredrick: I’m sorry to read of your illness, but honestly the “Qi” is doing jack shit. It’s your *blind belief* in Qi (and the peace of mind and comfort that goes with having faith in it) that is helping you. If it wasn’t Qi it would be something else – Fung Shui, Jesus, Allah, homoeopathy – whatever were to float your boat.

  8. #8 by Seek the Truth on January 26, 2011 - 03:07

    Inner Sound Foundation were exposed as a cult in the Telegraph in Sept 2007. At the time they were Ki Health International. They are a cult, started in the last 1990’s. After they were exposed in the paper, it was very easy to see their cult status on the internet. Try typing Ki Health and ‘cult’ will appear. Therefore, they changed their name to Inner Sound foundation. They also changed their spelling of ‘Ki’ to ‘Qi’, to completely avoid the possibility of detection on the net. Read all about them by googling ‘Ki Health International = Money Grabbing Cult run by Criminals’.

  9. #9 by Peter on September 13, 2011 - 03:26

    If you have not tried it, then you cant criticise it!
    The treatments helped relieve my long term pain from a skiing injury which medicines could not! I have also worked with the charity n its volunteer employees, who are very nice people who dont earn squat!
    Its shameful to hear people like David who tries to tell someone who’s tried the treatment that its not helping, when you have not tried it for yourself to even criticise, just pure ignorance.
    @ Seek the truth: you don’t believe everything you hear in the papers, do you? Journalist can write unproven stories jus to get people to read their article n buy the newspaper (news of the world for example). I have read the article n its so contradicting. If they were money grabbing criminals then why are they a registered charity using there income for community projects in the uk and overseas?
    All i can say is that try it before you criticise it.

  10. #10 by No non-sense on December 17, 2011 - 16:53

    I’m introduced to Master Sung, and taken into a treatment room, which is equipped with a massage bed and two armchairs. I tell Master Sung about my medical history, he asks how I’m feeling right now and how my energy levels are. Then I lie on the couch (you don’t need to remove any clothes, except my shoes which were swapped for slippers at the door), and the treatment begins.

    The treatment itself is a combination of acupressure and sound vibration. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, working with energy points all along the body, except instead of needles my practitioner applies pressure with his hands. The sound vibration is a trifle strange at first. As he applies pressure to my body – starting with my stomach which gets quite a strong kneading and I begin to wish I hadn’t eaten that peach in reception – he begins to make a noise, which sounds a bit like the air being let out of bicycle tires at high pressure.

    The noise continues as he moves around my body using deft firm strokes, from my stomach to my arms, then legs, and gradually I get used to it. Then I turn over to lie on my stomach and receive the same treatment on the back of my body – it feels like a mini intense massage on my shoulders and is very pleasant. Finally I sit up and he works a bit more on my shoulders, finishing with my head which he pays a lot of attention to – as I’ve had quite traumatic surgery there in the past.

    Then it’s all over and we go back to the armchairs. He says I’m not suffering any major blockages (apparently the stomach is the most common place for blocked energy), but my circulation is not very good, particularly in my legs. I make a note to ask my doctor about this. Also he has detected some problems in my kidneys. I did have a lot of kidney infections growing up but I don’t tell him this. And he recommends that a course of treatment and also Ki training classes, would be beneficial for me. Though this I would have expected of course.

    As I’m walking down the stairs to leave, something strange happens. I become aware of an odd smell. Then I realise it’s not the smell that’s odd, it’s the fact that I can smell it. I had an operation eight years ago that affected my sense of smell. Basically I can pick up smells that are very strong and close to me, but I can’t pick up surrounding smells. Until now.

    It’s the smell of food, somebody must be heating up lunch downstairs. I walk down the street sniffing – picking up the perfume of a group of dressed-up women on the footpath outside, turning into Caffè Nero for a super-fragrant experience of rich coffee aromas layered with the smell of cake; the beauty hall in the House of Fraser is a whole explosion on my senses. I realise I have been smelling in ‘mono’ for years – now suddenly it’s as if my nose has switched to ‘stereo’.
    And I can’t explain it. Or even guess whether it will last. But I’m certainly intrigued enough to sign myself up for a course of treatments.

  11. #11 by diana on March 7, 2012 - 22:23

    I am glad that people are writing on this scallys website to give their actual experience. I think this is all possibly a bit too sophisticated for Liverpool. I too went along as I got a cheap session with Living Social. I had no idea what to expect and thought it would just be a massage. I should point out that I am a sceptic. I was also very stressed about work and having panic attacks and not sleeping. I had one session – yes it was strange but my god it worked . I have not felt so calm in years and like the previous person my job is still stressful but I appear to be able to cope. Some people are only happy if they have some drugs to cure their ailments but maybe a more open mind is the best cure. Im not concerned with how I get cured – if it works its good enough for me

  12. #12 by Susan on July 10, 2012 - 14:01

    The people who had nice massages are missing the point. The really issue is who is behind the organisation. Innersound have admitted their treatments where developed by a couple who were convicted of a US$90 fraud in Korea. That same couple claimed to have been given a heavenly mission. ie. messiah figures. The cult they founded is alive and well today after several name changes. Innersound is that cult. They may give nice massages to many, but when they find someone vulnerable and rich they really get to work. Someone said but they’re a charity. Only their reported income is audited. Money does go to the criminals in Korea.

  13. #13 by Philip on December 6, 2012 - 21:13

    So this “charity” has rebranded from Ki Health to Innersound to Qi Wellness Centre.
    Yes, some people feel better, but is this because of their strong desire to feel better – aka placebo. We all know how placebos work and if we are paying alot of money to get well, then the desire increases. They work on acupressure points, so of course, pressing on them is going to have some benefit. You will get the same if you go for acupuncture or massage, but it won’t cost you £70……..from a supposed “charity”…..
    Qi Wellness are the one and the same as Innersound, Ki Health, nothing changes. They take your money, feed you a load of rubbish about your ancestors and take more of your money, thank you very much.
    If you are wanting to be helped, go to a place that hasn’t been linked as being a CULT like Qi Wellness has / Innersound / Ki Health.
    See David Harrison’s articles – Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and see the Rick ross website.
    If you’re not convinced by then, then see your bank balance go down, isolation from your friends, family, partner and then question yourself even more. If they start twaddling on about ancestor healing and wanting more of your money, question it. They suck you in with their tea, fruit, cake, and smiles…. Question their motivation, did they pressure you to do class, do they pressure you to keep on coming to class – so that they can brainwash you, do they pressure you to make “donations” for flowers, ceremonies, do they make you sign forms so that you won’t sue them? do they take you to the side and talk about what you can do help yourself and your ancestors?
    Question it, question it and then leave whilst asking others to question it.

  14. #14 by Peter on January 31, 2013 - 01:17

  15. #15 by Peter on January 31, 2013 - 01:19

    And more recently:
    http://www.cultnews.com/?p=2460

  16. #16 by Owen on June 11, 2013 - 17:00

    Jesus H Christ. I have read some cynical, aggressive bullshit today have I not? I have known these guys and girls for over 7 years now. They have massively helped me and not once, not once EVER have i been pushed, cajoled, bullied or harrassed in any way shape or form. They are THE nicest, most genuine people I have ever known. They live a monks existence every day for the rest of their lives such is their sincere individual wish to help others. One is a friend of mine I knew BEFORE she decided to join them and consequently spend the rest of her life helping others and some people on this daft forum, people who have never even had a treatment, never tried a class, NADA, see fit to berate, belittle, slag off in the most personal and aggressive way people like her with an astonishing lack of respect and grace. Go. Try for yourself. Be suprised at how real it is and then, from me to you, go fuck yourself. And I’m as intelligent and sceptical as they come and I didn’t turn up to their place in a vulnerable state at all. Which patronising cocksucker thought up that old condescending bullshit? Genius. Really smart that one. Really covered your bases didn’t you! I was suffering from No mental fragility whatsoever! I have however now met literally hundreds of people who are damn grateful to them for various reasons. They are nore more a cult than any religion you care to think of btw. That’s about as “cultish” as they get. You absolute spunk monkeys. Over n out.

  17. #17 by Owen on June 11, 2013 - 17:09

    Oh. And David Price. You really are a prize wanker do you know that? You have got some nerve talking about harrassment you devious and unsavoury little bastard.

  18. #18 by Jim on January 16, 2014 - 14:22

    Nice example of shoot-the-messenger there, Owen. Have you helped your cult kill anyone for money recently?

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