A woman’s hands glowed with gold fragments in X-rays, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
But she was not some kind of medical marvel — the woman had been using the practice of gold-thread acupuncture for a number of years.
The glowing filaments in her hand are pieces of gold thread inserted into her fingers and wrists as part of the alternative therapy used to treat pain.
The X-ray was taken in 2014 when the 58-year-old went to a rheumatology clinic for the long-standing pain in her hands and feet.
Her pain had begun when she was 18, and when she was 48, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, according to Live Science.
The woman had been taking painkillers to ease her symptoms but had also opted for gold-thread acupuncture.
Sterile pieces of gold are inserted into the body when the acupuncture needle pierces the skin.
The practice has been used in many East Asia areas to treat pain, but there is no scientific evidence to suggest it works.
In the woman’s case, the rheumatoid arthritis had deformed most of her joints, but Dr. Kyung-Su Park, a rheumatologist at St. Vincent’s Hospital in South Korea who treated the patient, said he did not believe the gold thread was associated with her joint problems.
What is more likely is the woman’s joint problems and deformities were worsened by the fact she used alternative treatments for her arthritis rather than standard medical treatments.
She “depended on traditional medicine such as acupuncture instead of getting proper medical treatment with anti-rheumatic drugs,” Park said.
Her doctors recommended that she change her medicine and start taking prescribed drugs for her arthritis.
They also performed surgery to reduce her joint pain, but left the gold threads in place.
There are many reasons people may opt to use alternative or natural therapies.
But there is little evidence to suggest they work.
All medical treatments have to go through vigorous testing to prove they work before they are made available to patients.
Alternative therapy is not subject to the same testing.
The lack of regulation also means some alternative therapies could be harmful or cause unwanted side effects.
And choosing alternative therapies, or shunning treatment altogether, can prove fatal in illnesses like cancer.
Many alternative treatments, such as homeopathy, are based on the idea the body can heal itself through exposure to highly diluted substances that cause an illness.
Alternative therapies can, however, be used alongside traditional medicine.