Edzard Ernst


Certain aspects of yoga can be used as a non-pharmacological conservative therapeutic approach to the management of chronic low back pain (CLBP). This overview summarized and evaluated data from current systematic reviews (SRs) on the use of yoga for CLBP.

The researchers searched SRs on the use of yoga for CLBP in nine electronic databases from inception to September 2023. The methodological quality was evaluated using the Assessment of Multiple Systematic Review Scale-2 (AMSTAR-2). The reporting quality of the included SRs was evaluated using the Preferred Reporting Item for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis-2020 (PRISMA-2020), and the quality of data was graded using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE). Two independent researchers performed the screening, data extraction, and quality assessment process of SRs.

A total of 13 SRs were included. The results of the AMSTAR-2 indicated that the methodological quality of the included studies was relatively low. The PRISMA-2020 checklist evaluation results indicated that methodological limitations in reporting, especially regarding data processing and presentation, were the main weaknesses. The GRADE assessment indicated that 30 outcomes were rated moderate, 42 were rated low level, and 20 were rated very low level. Downgrading factors were mainly due to the limitations of the included studies.

The authors concluded that yoga appears to be an effective and safe non-pharmacological therapeutic modality for the Management of CLBP. Currently, it may exhibit better efficacy in improving pain and functional disability associated with CLBP. However, the methodological quality and quality of evidence for SRs/MAs in the included studies were generally low, and these results should be interpreted cautiously.

Sorry, but I beg to differ!

  • The safety of a therapy cannot be ascertained on the basis of such small sample sizes.
  • The effectiveness of yoga has not been demonstrated by these data.
  • All that has been shown with this review is that the quality of the research in this area is too poor for drawing conclusions.

According to chiropractic belief, vertebral subluxation (VS) is a clinical entity defined as a misalignment of the spine affecting biomechanical and neurological function. The identification and correction of VS is the primary focus of the chiropractic profession. The purpose of this study was to estimate VS prevalence using a sample of individuals presenting for chiropractic care and explore the preventative public health implications of VS through the promotion of overall health and function.

A brief review of the literature was conducted to support an operational definition for VS that incorporated neurologic and kinesiologic exam components. A retrospective, quantitative analysis of a multi-clinic dataset was then performed using this operational definition.

The operational definition used in this study included:

  • (1) inflammation of the C2 (second cervical vertebra) DRG,
  • (2) leg length inequality,
  • (3) tautness of the erector spinae muscles,
  • (4) upper extremity muscle weakness,
  • (5) Fakuda Step test,
  • radiographic analysis based on the (6) frontal atlas cranium line and (7) horizontal atlas cranium line.

Descriptive statistics on patient demographic data included age, gender, and past health history characteristics. In addition to calculating estimates of the overall prevalence of VS, age- and gender-stratified estimates in the different clinics were calculated to allow for potential variations.

A total of 1,851 patient records from seven chiropractic clinics in four states were obtained. The mean age of patients was 43.48 (SD = 16.8, range = 18-91 years). There were more females (n = 927, 64.6%) than males who presented for chiropractic care. Patients reported various reasons for seeking chiropractic care, including, spinal or extremity pain, numbness, or tingling; headaches; ear, nose, and throat-related issues; or visceral issues. Mental health concerns, neurocognitive issues, and concerns about general health were also noted as reasons for care. The overall prevalence of VS was 78.55% (95% CI = 76.68-80.42). Female and male prevalence of VS was 77.17% and 80.15%, respectively; notably, all per-clinic, age, or gender-stratified prevalences were ≥50%.

The authors concluded that the results of this study suggest a high rate of prevalence of VS in a sample of individuals who sought chiropractic care. Concerns about general health and wellness were represented in the sample and suggest chiropractic may serve a primary prevention function in the absence of disease or injury. Further investigation into the epidemiology of VS and its role in health promotion and prevention is recommended.

This is one of the most hilarious pieces of ‘research’ that I have recently encountered. The strategy is siarmingly simple:

  • invent a ficticious pathology (VS) that will earn you plently of money;
  • develop criteria that allow you to diagnose this pathology in the maximum amount of consumers;
  • show gullible consumers that they are afflicted by this pathology;
  • use scare mongering tactics to convince consumers that the pathology needs treating;
  • offer a treatment that, after a series of expensive sessions, will address the pathology;
  • cash in regularly while this goes on;
  • when the consumer has paid enough, declare that your fabulous treatment has done the trick and the consumer is again healthy.

The strategy is well known amongst practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), e.g.:

  • Traditional acupuncturists diagnose a ficticious imbalance of yin and yang only to normalise it with numerous acupuncture sessions.
  • Naturopaths diagnose ficticious intoxications and treat it with various detox measures.
  • Iridologists diagnose ficticious abnormalities of the iris that allegedly indicate organ disstress and treat it with whatever SCAM they can offer.

As they say:

No disease can be more surely, effectively, and profitably treated than a condition that the unsuspecting customer did not have in the first place!



Sadly, such behavior exists in convertional medicine occasionally too, but SCAM relies almost entirely on it.

This study was aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of osteopathic visceral manipulation (OVM) combined with physical therapy in pain, depression, and functional impairment in patients with chronic mechanical low back pain (LBP).
A total of 118 patients with chronic mechanical LBP were assessed, and 86 who met the inclusion criteria were included in the randomized clinical trial (RCT). The patients were randomized to either:

  • Group 1 (n=43), who underwent physical therapy (5 days/week, for a total of 15 sessions) combined with OVM (2 days/week with three-day intervals),
  • or Group 2 (n=43), which underwent physical therapy (5 days/week, for a total of 15 sessions) combined with sham OVM (2 days/week with three-day intervals).

Both groups were assessed before and after treatment and at the fourth week post-treatment.

Seven patients were lost to follow-up, and the study was completed with 79 patients. Pain, depression, and functional impairment scores were all improved in both groups (p=0.001 for all). This improvement was sustained at week four after the end of treatment. However, improvement in the pain, depression, and functional impairment scores was significantly higher in Group 1 than in Group 2 (p=0.001 for all).

The authors concluded that the results suggest that OVM combined with physical therapy is useful to improve pain, depression, and functional impairment in patients with chronic mechanical low back pain. We believe that OVM techniques should be combined with other physical therapy modalities in this patient population.

OVM was invented by the French osteopath, Jean-Piere Barral. In the 1980s, he stated that through his clinical work with thousands of patients, he discovered that many health issues were caused by our inner organs being entrapped and immobile. According to its proponents, OVM is based on the specific placement of soft manual forces that encourage the normal mobility, tone and function of our inner organs and their surrounding tissues. In this way, the structural integrity of the entire body is allegedly restored.

I am not aware of good evidence to show that OVM is effective – and this, sadly, includes the study above.

In my view, the most plausible explanation for its findings have little to do with OVM itself: sham OVM was applied “by performing light pressure and touches with the palm of the hand on the selected points for OVM without the intention of treating the patient”. This means that most likely patients were able to tell OVM from sham OVM and thus de-blinded. In other words, their expectation of receiving an effective therapy (and not the OVM per se) determined the outcome.


I was alerted to this message on ‘reddit’:

I went in to a chiropractor for a sports injury which was completely unrelated to my neck (wrist). While I was there, the chiropractor insisted on also doing a neck adjustment. To make a very long story short, this adjustment caused a vertebral artery dissection. The injury has left me with lifelong symptoms that I won’t get into here.>Because of tort reform law in Texas, and the $250k cap, I had a very difficult time finding any attorney to represent me even though there’s a mountain of evidence in my favor. My time to file a lawsuit has almost run out (statute of limitations).

Out of principle I want to hold this person accountable. How would I go about at least filing my lawsuit so that I get in within the statute of limitations which is very quickly approaching?

My thought is if I do sue this person within the two year timeframe then I can either self represent, have the option of withdrawing my case, or maybe in the meantime find an attorney to represent me for if/when we go to trial.

Any other advice or things that I should be considering? What would you do?

Thank you


If anyone can help this person, please do so. I have acted as an expert witness in several such cases and would be happy to do so also in this instance.

Chiropractors will, of course, say that this message is not a proper case report and cannot therefore count as evidence against the safety of chiropractic. I agree that it does not in itself amount to compelling evidence. But I would like to remind the chiros that it is up to them to establish a proper surveillance system for such tragic events which seem to occur far more often than they want us to believe (as discussed ad nauseam on this blog).

How often have we seen it stated on this blog and elsewhere by enthusiasts of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) that COVID vaccinations were useless or even harmful? Here is some rather compelling evidence that should make them think again.

This population based cohort study investigated the effectiveness of primary covid-19 vaccination (first two doses and first booster dose within the recommended schedule) against post-covid-19 condition (PCC).

All adults (≥18 years) participated from the Swedish Covid-19 Investigation for Future Insights (a Population Epidemiology Approach using Register Linkage (SCIFI-PEARL) project, a register based cohort study in Sweden) with covid-19 first registered between 27 December 2020 and 9 February 2022 (n=589 722) in the two largest regions of Sweden. Individuals were followed from a first infection until death, emigration, vaccination, reinfection, a PCC diagnosis (ICD-10 diagnosis code U09.9), or end of follow-up (30 November 2022), whichever came first. Individuals who had received at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine before infection were considered vaccinated.

The primary outcome was a clinical diagnosis of PCC. Vaccine effectiveness against PCC was estimated using Cox regressions adjusted for age, sex, comorbidities (diabetes and cardiovascular, respiratory, and psychiatric disease), number of healthcare contacts during 2019, socioeconomic factors, and dominant virus variant at time of infection.

Of 299 692 vaccinated individuals with covid-19, 1201 (0.4%) had a diagnosis of PCC during follow-up, compared with 4118 (1.4%) of 290 030 unvaccinated individuals. Covid-19 vaccination with any number of doses before infection was associated with a reduced risk of PCC (adjusted hazard ratio 0.42, 95% confidence interval 0.38 to 0.46), with a vaccine effectiveness of 58%. Of the vaccinated individuals, 21 111 received one dose only, 205 650 received two doses, and 72 931 received three or more doses. Vaccine effectiveness against PCC for one dose, two doses, and three or more doses was 21%, 59%, and 73%, respectively.

The authors concluded that the results of this study suggest a strong association between covid-19 vaccination before infection and reduced risk of receiving a diagnosis of PCC. The findings highlight the importance of primary vaccination against covid-19 to reduce the population burden of PCC.

This study should make the anti-vaxers re-consider their views. Sadly, I have little hope that they will. If they don’t, they provide rational thinkers with yet further evidence that they are cultists who are beyond learning from compelling data.

I was alerted to a new book entitled “Handbook of Space Pharmaceuticals“. It contains a chapter on “Homeopathy as a Therapeutic Option in Space” (yes, I am not kidding!). Here is its abstract (the numbers were inserted by me and refer to the short comments below):

Homeopathy is one of the largest used unorthodox medicinal systems having a wide number of principles and logic to treat and cure various diseases [1]. Many successful concepts like severe dilution to high agitation have been applied in the homeopathic system [2]. Though many concepts like different treatment for same diseases and many more are contradictory to the allopathic system [3], homeopathy has proved its worth in decreasing drug-related side effects in many arenas [4]. Various treatments and researches are carried out on various diseases; mostly homeopathic treatment is used in joint diseases, respiratory diseases, cancer, and gastrointestinal tract diseases [5]. In this chapter, readers will have a brief idea about many meta-analysis results of most common respiratory diseases, i.e., asthma, incurable hypertension condition, rheumatoid arthritis, and diarrhea and a megareview of all the diseases to see their unwanted effects, uses of drugs, concepts, and issues related to homeopathy [6]. Various limitations of homeopathic treatments are also highlighted which can give a clear idea about the future scope of research [7]. Overall, it can be concluded that placebo and homeopathic treatments give almost the same effect [8], but the less severe side effects of homeopathic drugs in comparison to all other treatment groups catch great attention [9].

Apart from the very poor English of the text and the fact that it has as good as nothing to do with the subject of ‘Homeopathy as a Therapeutic Option in Space’, I have the following brief comments:

  1. I did not know that homeopathy has ‘a wide number of logic’ and had alwas assumed that there is only one logic.
  2. Successful concepts? Really?
  3. So, homeopaths believe that the ‘allopathic system’ treats the same diseases uniformly? In this case, they should perhaps read up what conventional medicine really does.
  4. I am not aware of good evidence showing that homeopathy reduces drug related adverse effects.
  5. No, homeopathy is used for all symptoms – Hahnemann did not believe in treating disease entities – and mostly for those that are self-limiting.
  6. I love the term ‘incurable hypertension condition’; can somebody please explain what it is?
  7. The main limitation is that homeopathy is nonsense and, as such, does not really require further research.
  8. Not ‘almost’ but ‘exactly’! But thanks for pointing it out.
  9. Wishful thinking and not true. Firstly, the author forgot about ‘homeopathic aggravations’ in which homeopaths so strongly believe. Secondly, I know of many non-homeopathic treatments that are free of adverse effects when done properly.

Altogether, I am as disappointed by this article as you must be: we were probably all hoping to hear about the discovery showing that homeopathy works splendidly in space – not least because we have known for a while that homeopaths seem to be from a different planet.

NICE helps practitioners and commissioners get the best care to patients, fast, while ensuring value for the taxpayer. Internationally, NICE has a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy. But is that also true for its recommendations regarding the use of acupuncture? NICE currently recommends that patients consider acupuncture as a treatment option for the following conditions:

Confusingly, on a different site, NICE also recommends acupuncture for retinal migraine, a very specific type of migraine that affect normally just one eye with symptoms such as vision loss lasting up to one hour, a blind spot in the vision, headache, blurred vision and seeing flashing lights, zigzag patterns or coloured spots or lines, as well as feeling nauseous or being sick.

I think this perplexing situation merits a look at the evidence. Here I quote the conclusions of recent, good quality, and (where possible) independent reviews:

So, what do we make of this? I think that, on the basis of the evidence:

  • a positive recommendation for all types of chromic pain is not warranted;
  • a positive recommendation for the treatment of TTH is questionable;
  • a positive recommendation for migraine is questionable;
  • a positive recommendation for prostatitis is questionable;
  • a positive recommendation for hiccups is not warranted;
  • a positive recommendation for retinal migraine is not warranted.

But why did NICE issue positive recommendations despite weak or even non-existent evidence?





The case of a 2.5-year-old boy who accidentally ingested a 25% sodium chlorite solution was reported. The solution had been recommended to the grandfather as a “bowel cure” by a naturopath. Although the boy tried to spit the solution out again, he was unable to do so or only partially succeeded. Vomiting and diarrhoea soon set in and the child’s condition deteriorated rapidly.

On admission to hospital, a greyish-pale skin colour, lip cyanosis and an oxygen saturation of 67% were already apparent. The child had to be intubated. Blood gas analysis revealed marked methaemoglobinaemia, which was treated with methylene blue and ascorbic acid. Erythrocyte concentrates were also transfused due to haemolytic anaemia. In the oesophagogastroduodenoscopy the next day, the gastric mucosa was completely covered with bloody erosions. Later, aspiration pneumonia was suspected and antibiotics with piperacillin and tazobactam i.v. were administered for five days. After clinical restitution, the child was discharged.

The author added the following comment:

Several health authorities (including in the USA, Switzerland, Canada and the UK) have issued warnings about MMS in recent years and in some cases have also taken specific measures to protect consumers. In July 2012, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) strongly advised against the consumption and use of MMS.

In February 2015, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) classified two MMS products as requiring authorisation. These were considered to be so-called presentation drugs because the manufacturer made clear healing promises and stated medicinal purposes. Furthermore, precise dosage information and references to the possibility of severe side effects such as diarrhoea and nausea were given, as well as references to the book “The Breakthrough” by Jim Humble, in which the use and effectiveness of MMS is described for malaria and cancer, for example. This means that the products would have to be authorised as medicinal products and could then only be placed on the market if the pharmaceutical company had proven their efficacy, quality and safety.

In addition, the BfArM categorised both products as questionable medicinal products in accordance with Section 5 of the German Medicinal Products Act because their use is associated with harmful effects that go beyond an acceptable level.

On this blog, we have repeatedly discussed the MMS, e.g.:

I urge everyone who might be tempted to try MMS to think again.

Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) supplementation reduces the occurrence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and CVD-related mortality in patients at high-risk of CVD and in patients with elevated plasma triglyceride level. Yet, some studies have found an increased risk of atrial fibrillation (AF). AF is the most common sustained cardiac arrhythmia worldwide. It is associated with high morbidity and mortality rates and significant public health burden. Previous studies of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on AF occurrence have reported contradictory results.

This review evaluated the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on the risk of AF. The results suggest that omega-3 fatty acids supplementation is associated with increased AF risk, particularly in trials that used high doses. Therefore, several factors should be considered before prescribing omega-3 fatty acids, including their dose, type, and formulation (fish, dietary fish oil supplements, and purified fatty acids), as well as patient-related factors and atrial mechanical milieu. Because the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are dose-dependent, the associated AF risk should be balanced against the benefit for CVD. Patients who take omega-3 fatty acids, particularly at high doses, should be informed of the risk of AF and followed up for the possible development of this common and potentially hazardous arrhythmia.

Another recent review included 54,799 participants from 17 cohorts. A total of 7,720 incident cases of AF were ascertained after a median 13.3 years of follow-up. In multivariable analysis, EPA levels were not associated with incident AF, HR per interquintile range (ie, the difference between the 90th and 10th percentiles) was 1.00 (95% CI: 0.95-1.05). HRs for higher levels of DPA, DHA, and EPA+DHA, were 0.89 (95% CI: 0.83-0.95), 0.90 (95% CI: 0.85-0.96), and 0.93 (95% CI: 0.87-0.99), respectively.

The authors concluded that in vivo levels of omega-3 fatty acids including EPA, DPA, DHA, and EPA+DHA were not associated with increased risk of incident AF. Our data suggest the safety of habitual dietary intakes of omega-3 fatty acids with respect to AF risk. Coupled with the known benefits of these fatty acids in the prevention of adverse coronary events, our study suggests that current dietary guidelines recommending fish/omega-3 fatty acid consumption can be maintained.

Faced with contradictory results based on non-RCT evidence, we clearly need an RCT. Luckily such a trial has recently been published. It was an ancillary study of a 2 × 2 factorial randomized clinical trial involving 25 119 women and men aged 50 years or older without prior cardiovascular disease, cancer, or AF. Participants were recruited directly by mail between November 2011 and March 2014 from all 50 US states and were followed up until December 31, 2017.

Participants were randomized to receive EPA-DHA (460 mg/d of EPA and 380 mg/d of DHA) and vitamin D3 (2000 IU/d) (n = 6272 analyzed); EPA-DHA and placebo (n = 6270 analyzed); vitamin D3 and placebo (n = 6281 analyzed); or 2 placebos (n = 6296 analyzed). The primary outcome was incident AF confirmed by medical record review.

Among the 25 119 participants who were randomized and included in the analysis (mean age, 66.7 years; 50.8% women), 24 127 (96.1%) completed the trial. Over a median 5.3 years of treatment and follow-up, the primary end point of incident AF occurred in 900 participants (3.6% of study population). For the EPA-DHA vs placebo comparison, incident AF events occurred in 469 (3.7%) vs 431 (3.4%) participants, respectively (hazard ratio, 1.09; 95% CI, 0.96-1.24; P = .19). For the vitamin D3 vs placebo comparison, incident AF events occurred in 469 (3.7%) vs 431 (3.4%) participants, respectively (hazard ratio, 1.09; 95% CI, 0.96-1.25; P = .19). There was no evidence for interaction between the 2 study agents (P = .39).

The authors concluded that among adults aged 50 years or older, treatment with EPA-DHA or vitamin D3, compared with placebo, resulted in no significant difference in the risk of incident AF over a median follow-up of more than 5 years. The findings do not support the use of either agent for the primary prevention of incident AF.

So, does the regular supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids increase the risk of atrial fibrillation? The evidence is not entirely clear but, on balance, I conclude that the risk is low or even non-existent.

The British doctor and outspoken anti-vaxer Aseem Malhotra has featured several times on this blog, e.g.:

Now, there has been a potentially important new development in his story. The Good Law Project recently announced the following:

During the pandemic, we depended on doctors telling us how we could protect ourselves and our loved ones. We trusted their advice would be based on the most reliable and up-to-date research.

But when the British cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra went on television, or posted to his hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, he repeatedly claimed the vaccine was ineffective and posed a greater threat than Covid, causing “horrific unprecedented harms including sudden cardiac death” – suggestions refuted by medical experts and branded false by factcheckers.

The General Medical Council is responsible for regulating doctors in the UK and investigating those whose conduct falls short of the required standards. Despite the clear risk to public health of vaccine misinformation, it has so far refused to launch an investigation into Malhotra’s public pronouncements, originally saying that they “don’t consider that the comments or posts made by the doctor call his fitness to practice into question…” and subsequently upholding that decision after a number of doctors challenged it.

Good Law Project is supporting a doctor who is taking the regulator to the High Court over their failure to investigate whether Malhotra has breached standards. The judicial review has now been given permission to proceed by the High Court, which held that it raises an “issue of general public importance” as to how the GMC exercises its functions.

According to the claimant, Dr Matt Kneale, medical professionals “should not be using their professional status to promote harmful misinformation”.

“When doctors repeatedly say things that are incorrect, misleading and put people’s health at risk – for example by encouraging them to refuse a vaccine – the GMC must hold them to account,” Kneale said.

For the Good Law Project Executive Director, Jo Maugham, the regulator’s failure to investigate doctors spreading misinformation forms part of a wider pattern.

“What we have learned from both the pandemic inquiry and the calamitous economic consequences of Brexit,” Maugham explained, “is quite how serious are the consequences of deciding, as Michael Gove did, that we have ‘had enough of experts’.”

The council may prefer to avoid becoming embroiled in a controversy over free speech, he continued, but “its primary obligation is to protect the public – and it’s really hard to see how its stance delivers on that objective.”

Dr Malhotra is far from the only proponent of vaccine misinformation in the UK.  Open Democracy revealed that anti-lockdown MPs, including Tufton Street’s Steve Baker, took large donations from a secretive group called The Recovery Alliance, which has been linked with a fake grassroots organisation that campaigned against the vaccine.

We’re working to stop misinformation from going unchallenged, and to make sure that regulators like the General Medical Council hold dangerous doctors who make unfounded claims accountable.

By helping to fund this case, you’ll be fighting for trust in the medical profession and to make sure public safety is doctors’ first priority. Any support you can give will help us make positive change.


The ‘Good Law Project’?

Who are they?

Good Law Project is a not for profit campaign organisation that uses the law for a better world. We know that the law, in the right hands, can be a fair and decent force for good. It is a practical tool for positive change and can make amazing things happen. We are proud to be primarily funded by members of the public, which keeps us fiercely independent. We want to inspire hope in difficult times by showing that you can make a difference, with the backing of good law. Our mission is to use the law to hold power to account, protect the environment, and ensure no one is left behind. You can learn more about our organisation and achievements in 2022-23 in our annual report.

You might even decide to support this splendid organization!

I hope you do.

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