"Research suggests that acupuncture can help manage certain pain conditions, but evidence about its value for other health issues is uncertain". - (from nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture)
So, this is the issue - Western medicine requires blind studies to prove efficacy of treatments or prescriptions. This is over-simplified, but a blind study requires that you take 'n' number of patients with the same chief complaint - let's say 50 people with Chronic Migraine for this example - and give them the same treatment protocol to prove that said protocol works.
The challenge that we face with acupuncture is those 50 people have many different underlying conditions that are causing their migraines. Migraine, even though it may be debilitating to the patient, is really only a symptom to the acupuncturist. It isn't the actual problem. We do ask about reduction in symptoms with each session to determine how our treatment is working, but technically we aren't treating Chronic Migraine, we are treating the root cause of the Migraine.
So, say we have these 50 people lined up for our blind study that we are supposed to be treating with the exact same set of needles in order to prove that specific protocol works, but we can't treat them the same! One may have a tendency to get dizzy and have floaters in her vision; another may have a tendency to get red eyes and very angry, especially when he has a Migraine. They actually have different problems according to Chinese Medicine! One may have a condition we call Liver Blood Deficiency, or Liver Yang Rising, or it might be Blood Stagnation or Kidney Deficiency.
Each of these conditions has a different acupuncture treatment protocol - making our medicine difficult to prove within this Western model. We'd need to have 50 people with exactly the same underlying pattern. We'll get there, though - they are beginning to do work to prove that acupuncture meridians exist (watch for future blogs about the Primo Vascular System (PVS) and their relationship with the acupuncture meridians...cool stuff!)