MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

I have seen some daft meta-analyses in my time – this one, however, takes the biscuit. Here is its unaltered abstract:

Although mindfulness-based mind-body therapy (MBMBT) is an effective non-surgical treatment for patients with non-specific low back pain (NLBP), the best MBMBT mode of treatment for NLBP patients has not been identified. Therefore, a network meta-analysis (NMA) was conducted to compare the effects of different MBMBTs in the treatment of NLBP patients.

Methods: PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Web of Science databases were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) applying MBMBT for the treatment of NLBP patients, with all of the searches ranging from the time of database creation to January 2023. After 2 researchers independently screened the literature, extracted information, and evaluated the risks of biases in the included studies, the data were analyzed by using Stata 16.0 software.

Results: A total of 46 RCTs were included, including 3,886 NLBP patients and 9 MBMBT (Yoga, Ayurvedic Massage, Pilates, Craniosacral Therapy, Meditation, Meditation + Yoga, Qigong, Tai Chi, and Dance). The results of the NMA showed that Craniosacral Therapy [surface under the cumulative ranking (SUCRA): 99.2 and 99.5%] ranked the highest in terms of improving pain and disability, followed by Other Manipulations (SUCRA: 80.6 and 90.8%) and Pilates (SUCRA: 54.5 and 71.2%). In terms of improving physical health, Craniosacral Therapy (SUCRA: 100%) ranked the highest, followed by Pilates (SUCRA: 72.3%) and Meditation (SUCRA: 55.9%). In terms of improving mental health, Craniosacral Therapy (SUCRA: 100%) ranked the highest, followed by Meditation (SUCRA: 70.7%) and Pilates (SUCRA: 63.2%). However, in terms of improving pain, physical health, and mental health, Usual Care (SUCRA: 7.0, 14.2, and 11.8%, respectively) ranked lowest. Moreover, in terms of improving disability, Dance (SUCRA: 11.3%) ranked lowest.

Conclusion: This NMA shows that Craniosacral Therapy may be the most effective MBMBT in treating NLBP patients and deserves to be promoted for clinical use.

___________________________

This meta-analysis has too many serious flaws to mention. Let me therefore just focus on the main two:

  1. Craniosacral Therapy is not an MBMBT.
  2. Craniosacral Therapy is not effective for NLBP. The false positive result was generated on the basis of 4 studies. All of them have serious methodological problems that prevent an overall positive conclusion about the effectiveness of this treatment. In case you don’t believe me, here are the 4 abstracts:

1) Background and objectives: The study aimed to compare the effectiveness of craniosacral therapy (CST), muscle energy technique (MET), and sensorimotor training (SMT) on pain, disability, depression, and quality of life of patients with non-specific chronic low back pain (NCLBP).

Methodology: In this randomized clinical trial study 45 patients with NCLBP were randomly divided in three groups including CST, SMT, and MET. All groups received 10 sessions CST, SMT, and MET training in 5 weeks. Visual analogue scale (VAS), Oswestry functional disability questionnaire (ODQ), Beck depression inventory-II (BDI-II), and 36-item short form health survey (SF-36) were used to evaluate the pain, disability, depression, and quality of life, respectively, in three times, before treatment, after the last session of treatment, and after 2 months follow up.

Results: The Results showed that VAS, ODI, BDI, and SF-36 changes were significant in the groups SMT, CST and MET (p < 0.001, p < 0.001, p < 0.001). The VAS, ODI, BDI, and SF-36 changes in post-treatment and follow-up times in the CST group were significantly different in comparison to SMT group, and the changes in VAS, ODI, BDI, and SF-36 at after treatment and follow-up times in the MET group compared with the CST group had a significant difference (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Craniosacral therapy, muscle energy technique, and sensorimotor training were all effective in improvement of pain, depression, functional disability, and quality of life of patients with non-specific chronic low back pain. Craniosacral therapy is more effective than muscle energy technique, and sensorimotor training in post-treatment and follow up. The effect of craniosacral therapy was continuous after two months follow up.

2) Background: Craniosacral therapy (CST) and sensorimotor training (SMT) are two recommended interventions for nonspecific chronic low back pain (NCLBP). This study compares the effects of CST and SMT on pain, functional disability, depression and quality of life in patients with NCLBP.

Methodology: A total of 31 patients with NCLBP were randomly assigned to the CST group (n=16) and SMT (n=15). The study patients received 10 sessions of interventions during 5 weeks. Visual analogue scale (VAS), Oswestry disability index (ODI), Beck depression inventory-II (BDI-II), and Short Form-36 (SF-36) questionnaires were used at baseline (before the treatment), after the treatment, and 2 months after the last intervention session. Results were compared and analyzed statistically.

Results: Both groups showed significant improvement from baseline to after treatment (p < 0.05). In the CST group, this improvement continued during the follow-up period in all outcomes (p < 0.05), except role emotional domain of SF-36. In the SMT group, VAS, ODI and BDI-II increased during follow-up. Also, all domains of SF-36 decreased over this period. Results of group analysis indicate a significant difference between groups at the end of treatment phase (p < 0.05), except social functioning.

Conclusions: Results of our research confirm that 10 sessions of craniosacral therapy (CST) or sensorimotor training (SMT) can significantly control pain, disability, depression, and quality of life in patients with NCLBP; but the efficacy of CST is significantly better than SMT.

3) Background: Non-specific low back pain is an increasingly common musculoskeletal ailment. The aim of this study was to examine the utility of craniosacral therapy techniques in the treatment of patients with lumbosacral spine overload and to compare its effectiveness to that of trigger point therapy, which is a recognised therapeutic approach.

Material and methods: The study enrolled 55 randomly selected patients (aged 24-47 years) with low back pain due to overload. Other causes of this condition in the patients were ruled out. The participants were again randomly assigned to two groups: patients treated with craniosacral therapy (G-CST) and patients treated with trigger point therapy (G-TPT). Multiple aspects of the effectiveness of both therapies were evaluated with the use of: an analogue scale for pain (VAS) and a modified Laitinen questionnaire, the Schober test and surface electromyography of the multifidus muscle. The statistical analysis of the outcomes was based on the basic statistics, the Mann-Whitney U test and Wilcoxon’s signed rank test. The statistical significance level was set at p≤0.05.

Results: Both groups demonstrated a significant reduction of pain measured with the VAS scale and the Laitinen questionnaire. Moreover, the resting bioelectric activity of the multifidus muscle decreased significantly in the G-CST group. The groups did not differ significantly with regard to the study parameters.

Conclusions: 1. Craniosacral therapy and trigger point therapy may effectively reduce the intensity and frequency of pain in patients with non-specific low back pain. 2. Craniosacral therapy, unlike trigger point therapy, reduces the resting tension of the multifidus muscle in patients with non-specific lumbosacral pain. The mechanism of these changes requires further research. 3. Craniosacral therapy and trigger point therapy may be clinically effective in the treatment of patients with non-specific lumbosacral spine pain. 4. The present findings represent a basis for conducting further and prospective studies of larger and randomized samples.

4) Background: Non-specific low back pain is an increasingly common musculoskeletal ailment. The aim of this study was to examine the utility of craniosacral therapy techniques in the treatment of patients with lumbosacral spine overload and to compare its effectiveness to that of trigger point therapy, which is a recognised therapeutic approach.

Material and methods: The study enrolled 55 randomly selected patients (aged 24-47 years) with low back pain due to overload. Other causes of this condition in the patients were ruled out. The participants were again randomly assigned to two groups: patients treated with craniosacral therapy (G-CST) and patients treated with trigger point therapy (G-TPT). Multiple aspects of the effectiveness of both therapies were evaluated with the use of: an analogue scale for pain (VAS) and a modified Laitinen questionnaire, the Schober test and surface electromyography of the multifidus muscle. The statistical analysis of the outcomes was based on the basic statistics, the Mann-Whitney U test and Wilcoxon’s signed rank test. The statistical significance level was set at p≤0.05.

Results: Both groups demonstrated a significant reduction of pain measured with the VAS scale and the Laitinen questionnaire. Moreover, the resting bioelectric activity of the multifidus muscle decreased significantly in the G-CST group. The groups did not differ significantly with regard to the study parameters.

Conclusions: 1. Craniosacral therapy and trigger point therapy may effectively reduce the intensity and frequency of pain in patients with non-specific low back pain. 2. Craniosacral therapy, unlike trigger point therapy, reduces the resting tension of the multifidus muscle in patients with non-specific lumbosacral pain. The mechanism of these changes requires further research. 3. Craniosacral therapy and trigger point therapy may be clinically effective in the treatment of patients with non-specific lumbosacral spine pain. 4. The present findings represent a basis for conducting further and prospective studies of larger and randomized samples.

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I REST MY CASE

 

One Response to Mindfulness-based mind-body therapy for low back pain: Is this the craziest meta-analysis ever?

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