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

charlatan

We all have heard of so-called alternative therapies but few of us are aware of the fact that there are also alternative diagnoses. These are diagnoses used regularly by practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) that have no basis on science, or – to put it simply – that do not exist. They are nonetheless popular with SCAM practitioners and allegedly cause a wide range of non-specific symptoms such as:

  • anxiety,
  • brain fog,
  • constipation,
  • depression,
  • dizziness,
  • fatigue,
  • headaches,
  • heart palpitations,
  • insomnia,
  • irritability,
  • muscle and joint pain,
  • loss of appetite,
  • loss of libido,
  • weight gain.

In this series of posts, I will briefly discuss some of these diagnoses and list the treatments that SCAM practitioners might recommend for them.

Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is not the same as adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s disease; it is a term coined by a chiropractor who claimed that the stresses of modern life tire out the adrenal glands. In turn, this phenomenon allegedly leads to generalised weariness.

There is not evidence that this is true, nor that adrenal fatigue even exists. A systematic review of the evidence concluded that “there is no substantiation that adrenal fatigue is an actual medical condition.”

Yet, SCAM practitioners advise to cure adrenal fatigue with a range of dietary supplements (e.g. fish oil, ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, schisandra and holy basil, licorice, magnesium, various vitamins), special diets, lifestyle adjustments, stress management and many other SCAMs. They all have in common that their effectiveness is not supported by convincing evidence from rigorous clinical trials.

Candidiasis hypersensitivity

Most of us are infected by the fungus Candida albicans without being affected by it in any way. Yet, many SCAM practitioners claim that candidiasis hypersensitivity is a condition that causes symptoms like fatigue, premenstrual tension, gastrointestinal symptoms, and depression and therefore needs treating.

But, candidiasis hypersensitivity does not exist. An RCT concluded that, “in women with presumed candidiasis hypersensitivity syndrome, nystatin does not reduce systemic or psychological symptoms significantly more than placebo.”

This, however, does not stop SCAM practitioners to recommend numerous forms of SCAM to treat the condition, e.g.: dietary supplements containing probiotics, milk thistle, red thyme, barberry, garlic, or external applications of coconut oil, essential oils of peppermint oil, lavender oil, oregano oil,  and tea tree. No sound evidence exists to show that ant of these SCAMs can successfully treat the condition.

Chronic intoxications

Chronic intoxications do ecist, of course. But in the realm of SCAM, they are diagosed for the sole putpose of selling their various  ‘detox’ treatments. The alleged rationale is that our bodies are overloaded with all sorts ot harmful substances, for instance, from the environment, from our food, from modern drugs, or from our own metabolism.

To eliminate them, we need to ‘detox’. For that purpose, SCAM practitioners recommend a very wide range of SCAMs; in fact, it is hardly possible to identify a single form of SCAM that is not said to detoxify our bodies. Yet, for none of them is there compelling evidence that it eliminates toxins from our body. Some of the most popular detox regimen include:

Interim conclusion: non-existing diagnoses are perfect opportunities for SCAM practitioners to rip off gullible patients.

 

We have repeatedly discussed financial and other fraud by (mostly US chiropractors, e.g.:

Many of these cases are impressive in their illegality or even viciousness. Yet, this one takes the biscuit, I think:

It has been reported that a former chiropractor will be spending a long time behind bars following his conviction for running a colossal workers’ compensation fraud that bagged him $150 million over several years. Peyman Heidary has been sentenced to 54 years and 8 months in state prison on April 12, and will also have to shell out more than $23 million in fines, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

Convicted in January of 68 counts including insurance fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering, Heidary’s scheme involved the control of fake health clinics and law firms from 2009 to 2014. He manipulated the workers’ comp system to exploit legitimately injured people and run up unnecessary treatments to inflate insurance billings, according to a Riverside County jury.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin made clear the gravity of Heidary’s exploitation: “The California workers’ compensation system is designed to help injured workers get back on their feet without ruining them financially,” Hestrin stated, adding “Sophisticated criminals like Mr. Heidary don’t just steal money, they take advantage of innocent patients”.  The trial also heard from one such patient, Denise Rivera, a worker injured on the job who despite being promised care, was left untreated.

Originally pegged at $98 million, the fraud was ultimately revealed to have caused about $150 million in damages. Judge Charles Koosed, overseeing the sentencing, called out Heidary’s greed, exploiting his detailed knowledge of the workers’ compensation landscape, Judge Koosed noted, “’[Heidary] took advantage of that knowledge based on greed.”

Heidary used the sham law firm to recruit thousands of legitimately injured patients, referring them to his network of clinics to create unnecessary billing. One of the injured workers, Denise Rivera, slipped and fell while working as a certified nurse assistant for special needs children. Ms. Rivera testified that she was recruited into Heidary’s scheme, but never received any effective treatment. “[Heidary’s employees] released me,” Rivera told jurors. “They told me … basically I was okay. My knee was okay.” When asked during the trial if her knee actually was OK, she simply responded, “No.”

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It will probably not take long for some chiro to post a comment pointing out that dishonest chiropractors are extremely rare exceptions. Most are law-abiding and behave ethically, he/she will insist. It will then be useless, of course, to counter that, in fact, there is plenty of evidence that dishonesty is rife amongst chiropractors and more frequent than with other healthcare professionals. They will not accept that and would like me to withdraw the allegation.

Such arguments often remind me of the Labour politician, Dennis Skinner, who once stated in the UK Parliament: “Half the Tories opposite are crooks.” When the Speaker insisted he should retract this remark, he responded, “OK, half the Tories opposite aren’t crooks.

The Academy of Homeopathy Education is a US-based accredited teaching institution offering homeopathy education services to professional and medically licensed homeopathy students. This study reports on clinical outcomes from the teaching clinic from 2020 to 2021.

Data were collected using the patient-generated outcome measure, the Measure Yourself Concerns and Wellbeing (MYCaW). Mean MYCaW values for initial and subsequent consultations were analyzed for the degree of change across the intervention period in 38 clients. Each client listed up to two complaints. MYCaW scores between initial and subsequent consultations were analyzed for the degree of change (delta) across the intervention period.

A total of 95 body system-related symptoms were analyzed for change in intensity following the homeopathic intervention. Statistically significant improvements in the intensity of main symptoms were observed between initial and subsequent follow-ups. The main symptom scores showed a mean change in intensity (delta MYCaW) of −0.79 points (95% confidence interval (CI), −1.29 to −0.29; p = 0.003) at first follow-up, a mean change of −1.67 points (95% CI, −2.34 to −0.99; p = 0.001) at second follow-up compared with the initial visit, and a mean change of −1.93 points (95% CI, −3.0 to −0.86; p = 0.008) at third follow-up compared with the initial visit. For clients with four or more follow-ups, the mean delta MYCaW was −1.57 points (95% CI, −2.86 to −0.28; p = 0.039).

The authors concluded that statistically significant improvements as well as some clinically meaningful changes in symptom intensity were found across a diverse group of individuals with a variety of long-term chronic conditions. The improvement was evident across different body systems and different levels of chronicity. There are limitations to the generalizability of the study due to the research design. Further research and investigation are warranted given the promising results of this work.

There are, of course, not just limits to the generalizability of this study! I’d say there are limits to the interpretation of any of its findings.

What was the cause of the improvements?

Here are just a few questions that I asked myself while reading this paper:

  • Are the guys from the Academy of Homeopathy Education not aware of the fact that even chronic conditions often get better by themselves?
  • Have they heard of the placebo effect?
  • Are they trying to tell us that the patients did not also use conventional treatments for their chronic conditions?
  • What about regression towards the mean?
  • What about social desirability?
  • Why do they think that further research is needed?
  • Are these really results that look ‘promising for homeopathy?

To answer just the last question: No, these findings are in perfect agreement with the fact that highly diluted homeopathic remedies are pure placebos (to be honest, they would even be in agreement with such remedies being mildly harmful).

 

‘WORLD HOMEOPATHY DAY’ is upon us and the Internet is awash with pro-homeopathy comments, e.g.:

  • World Homeopathy Day is observed annually on April 10th to commemorate the birth anniversary of Samuel Hahnemann, a prominent figure in the development of homeopathy. This day celebrates the principles and practices of homeopathy, an alternative medicinal approach that emphasizes treating ailments by utilizing natural substances and stimulating the body’s inherent healing abilities.
  • The theme for World Homeopathy Day 2024 is ‘Empowering Research, Enhancing Proficiency: A Homeopathy Symposium”. This theme underscores the significance of continuous research in homeopathy and the need to upgrade capability in its training to give better medical care results.

Even slightly less biased sources cannot bring themselves to a more realistic approach, e.g.:

The significance of the World Homeopathy Day is said to be as follows:

  • Raising Awareness: World Homeopathy Day has successfully brought homeopathy to the forefront of public attention, generating dialogue and interest in its principles and practices.
  • Bridging Communities: The Day serves as a platform for bringing together homeopaths, practitioners, researchers, and individuals interested in alternative medicine, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange.
  • Focus on Education: World Homeopathy Day emphasizes the importance of education and ethical practices within the field, promoting responsible usage and informed choices for individuals seeking homeopathic care.

World Homeopathy Day is about understanding and exploring the potential of this alternative medicine system while keeping an open mind and prioritizing evidence-based healthcare practices.

So, let me try to counter-balance these texts by showing you what my recently published 7 key points about homeopathy tell us:

Homeopathy is popular, particularly in India, Germany, France and parts of South America. It was invented more than 200 years ago and still divides opinions like few other subjects in alternative medicine.

  1. Homeopathy was invented by the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843). At the time, our understanding of the laws of nature was woefully incomplete, and therefore Hahnemann’s ideas seemed less implausible than today. The conventional treatments of this period were often more dangerous than the disease they were supposed to cure. Consequently, homeopathy was repeatedly shown to be superior to ‘allopathy’ (a term coined by Hahnemann to denigrate conventional medicine) and Hahnemann’s treatments were an almost instant, worldwide success.[1]
  2. Many consumers confuse homeopathy with herbal medicine; yet the two are fundamentally different. Herbal medicines are plant extracts that contain potentially active ingredients. Homeopathic remedies are based on plants or any other material and they are typically so dilute that they contain not a single molecule of the substance advertised on the bottle. The most frequently used dilution (homeopaths call them ‘potencies’) is a ‘C30’; a C30-potency has been diluted 30 times at a ratio of 1:100. This means that one drop of the staring material is dissolved in 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 drops of diluent (usually a water/alcohol mixture)—and that equates to less than one molecule of the original substance per all the molecules of the universe.
  3. Homeopaths claim that their remedies work via some ‘energy’ or ‘vital force’ and that the process of preparing the homeopathic dilutions (it involves vigorous shaking the mixtures at each dilution step) transfers this ‘energy’ or information from one to the next dilution. They also believe that the process of diluting and agitating their remedies, which they call potentisation, renders them not less or not more potent. Homeopathic remedies are usually prescribed according to the ‘like cures like’ principle: if, for instance, a patient suffers from runny eyes, a homeopath might prescribe a remedy made of onion, because onion make a healthy person’s eyes water. This and all other assumptions of homeopathy contradict the known laws of nature. In other words, we do not fail to comprehend how homeopathy works, but we understand that it cannot work unless the known laws of nature are wrong.
  4. According to Hahnemann’s classical homeopathy, homeopaths are focussed on the symptoms and characteristics of the patient. They conduct a lengthy medical history, and they show little or no interest in a physical examination of their patient or other diagnostic procedures. Once they are confident to have all the information they need, they try to find the optimal homeopathic remedy. This is done by matching the symptoms with the drug pictures of homeopathic remedies. Any homeopathic drug picture is essentially based on what has been noted in homeopathic provings where healthy volunteers take a remedy and monitor all that symptoms, sensations and feelings they experience subsequently. Thus, the optimal homeopathic remedy can be seen as a diagnosis which makes homeopathy also a diagnostic method.[2]
  1. Today, around 500 clinical trials of homeopathy have been published. The totality of this evidence fails to show that homeopathic remedies are more than placebos.[3] Numerous official statements from various countries confirm the absurdity of homeopathy, for instance:
  • “The principles of homeopathy contradict known chemical, physical and biological laws and persuasive scientific trials proving its effectiveness are not available” (Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia)
  • “Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.” (National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia)
  • “Homeopathic remedies don’t meet the criteria of evidence-based medicine.” (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary)
  • “The incorporation of anthroposophical and homeopathic products in the Swedish directive on medicinal products would run counter to several of the fundamental principles regarding medicinal products and evidence-based medicine.” (Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden)
  • “There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition” (National Health Service, England)
  1. Yet, many patients undeniably do get better after taking homeopathic remedies. The best evidence available today clearly shows that this improvement is unrelated to the homeopathic remedy per se. It is the result of a lengthy, empathetic, compassionate encounter with a homeopath, a placebo-response or other factors which experts often call ‘context effects’.[4]
  2. Whenever homeopaths advise their patients (as they often do) to forgo effective conventional treatments, they are likely to do harm. This phenomenon is best documented in relation to the advice of many homeopaths against immunisations.[5]
[For references, see the original text]

I do not expect fans of homeopathy to be impressed by my evidence-based assessment of their cult. In fact, just looking what is currently being posted on ‘X’ today about the ‘WORLD HOMEOPATHY DAY’ seems to justify my expectation. Here are the 10 first postings that appeared on my screen about an hour ago:

  1. Today, on #WorldHomeopathyDay, we celebrate the birth anniversary of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy. Let’s embrace the principles of natural healing and holistic well-being.
  2. On #WorldHomeopathyDay President #DroupadiMurmu to inaugurate 2-day Homeopathic Symposium at Yashobhoomi Convention Centre Dwarka, New Delhi. Organized by Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) based on theme of ‘Empowering Research, Enhancing Proficiency.’
  3. Dr. Ashvini Kumar Dwivedi, Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Central Council for Research in Homeopathy, Ministry of Ayush, Government of India, and #ASSOCHAM Ayush task force member, underlined the significance of #WorldHomeopathyDay, observed on April 10th each year
  4. Today, we celebrate #WorldHomeopathyDay 2024, embracing the gentle healing power of nature.
  5. Happy #WorldHomeopathyDay!  Let’s celebrate the holistic approach to health that homeopathy offers, honoring its contributions to alternative medicine and its focus on individualized care. Here’s to exploring natural remedies and supporting wellness for all! #HolisticHealth
  6. Happy World Homeopathy Day Embracing the gentle yet powerful healing of homeopathy, let’s cherish its holistic essence, promoting balance and well-being worldwide. Here’s to the harmony it brings to mind, body, and spirit.
  7. #WorldHomeopathyDay: President #DroupadiMurmu to inaugurate 2-day Homeopathic Symposium at Yashobhoomi Convention Centre Dwarka, New Delhi. Organized by Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) based on theme of ‘Empowering Research, Enhancing Proficiency.’
  8. Celebrate #WorldHomeopathyDay with us & enter to win these two enlightening reads by renowned homeopath Dr. Mukesh Batra. What inspired you to explore homeopathy? Share your story in the comments section & get a chance to win a copy of #HealWithHomeopathy and #FeelGoodHealGood!
  9. #WorldHomeopathyDay is celebrated on April 10th, promoting awareness of the principles and benefits of homeopathic medicine. It aims to address the whole body, including hereditary predispositions and disease history, and encourages people to pursue homeopathy as a profession.…
  10. On World Homeopathy Day, we celebrate Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the pioneer of homeopathy. His gentle remedies, made from natural substances, have helped countless people heal without side effects.

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In view of this volume of pure BS, I encourage everyone to post (here, or on ‘X’, or elsewhere) some evidence-based comments on homeopathy, Hahnemann and the ‘World Homeopathy Day’.

Let me make a start:

Homeopaths are as deluded as their remedies are diluted

This study evaluated and compared the effectiveness of Reiki and Qi-gong therapy techniques in improving diabetic patients’ negative emotional states. This quas-experimental research design was carried out at the National Institute of Diabetes and Endocrinology’s Hospital in Cairo, Egypt. It included 200 Type 2 diabetes patients randomized into two equal groups, one for Qigong and one for Reiki techniques. A self-administered questionnaire with a standardized tool (Depression Anxiety Stress Scales [DASS[) was used in data collection. The intervention programs were administered in the form of instructional guidelines through eight sessions for each group.

The results showed that the two study groups had similar socio-demographic characteristics. After implementation of the intervention, most patients in the two groups were having no anxiety, no depression, and no stress. Statistically significant improvements were seen in all three parameters in both groups (p<0.001). The multivariate analysis identified the study intervention as the main statistically significant independent negative predictor of the patients’ scores of anxiety, depression, and stress. Reiki technique was also a statistically significant independent negative predictor of these scores.

The authors conclused that both Reiki and Qi-gong therapy techniques were effective in improving diabetic patients’ negative emotional states of anxiety, depression, and stress, with slight superiority of the Reiki technique. The inclusion of these techniques in the management plans of Type-2 diabetic patients is recommended.

This is an excellent example of how NOT to design a clinical trial!

  • If your aim is to test the efficacy of Reiki, conduct a trial of Reiki versus sham-Reiki.
  • If your aim is to test the efficacy of Qi-gong, conduct a trial of Qi-gong versus sham-Qi-gong.
  • If you compare two therapies in one trial, one has to be of proven and undoubted efficacy.
  • Comparing two treatments of unproven efficacy cannot normally lead to a meaningful result.
  • It is like trying to solve a mathematical equasion with two unknowns.
  • A study that cannot produce a meaningful result is a waste of resorces.
  • It arguably also is a neglect of research ethics.
  • Even if we disregarded all these flaws and problems, recommending therapies for routine use on the basis of one single study is irresponsible nonsense.

All this is truly elementary and should be known by any researcher (not to mention research supervisor). Yet, in the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), it needs to be stressed over and over again. The ‘National Institute of Diabetes and Endocrinology’s Hospital in Cairo’ (and all other institutions that produce such shameful pseudoscience) urgently need to get their act together:

you are doing nobody a favour!

Cervical spondylosis is a chronic degenerative process of the cervical spine characterized by pain in neck, degenerative changes in intervertebral disc and osteophyte formation. The present study was aimed at evaluating the effect of wet cupping (Ḥijāma Bish Sharṭ) in the pain management of cervical spondylosis.

This Open, randomized, clinical study was conducted on 44 patients.

  • Subjects in the test group (n = 22) received a series of three-staged wet cupping treatment, performed on 0, 7th and 14th day.
  • Subjects in the control group (n = 22) received 12 sittings of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): 6 sittings per week for two weeks.

The outcomes were assessed with the help of VAS, Neck Disability Index (NDI) and Cervical range of motion.

Intra group comparison in test group from baseline to 21st day were found highly significant (p < 0.001) in terms of VAS, NDI, Flexion, Extension and Left rotation score. While in Right rotation, Left rotation and Left lateral flexion score were found moderately significant (p < 0.01). Statistically significant difference was observed between two groups at 21st day in VAS scale, NDI, and Cervical range of motion score (p < 0.001).

The authors concluded that Ḥijāma Bish Sharṭ was found better in the management of pain due to cervical spondylosis than TENS. It can be concluded that Ḥijāma Bish Sharṭ may a better option for the pain management of cervical spondylosis.

Wet cupping is the use of a vacuum cup applied to the skin which has previously been lacerated. It draws blood and can thus be seen as a form of blood letting. It has been used in various cultures for the treatment of joint pain and many other conditions since antiquity.

The authors point out that, in Unani medicine, it is believed to reduce pain and other symptoms by diverting and evacuating the causative pathological humours (akhlāṭ-e-fasida). Galen (Jalinoos) mentioned wet cupping as a very useful modality in evacuating the thick humours (akhlāṭ-e-Ghaleez) (Nafeesi, 1954; Qamri, 2008). Wet cupping works on the principle of diversion and evacuation of morbid matter (imala wa tanqiya-i-mawād-i-fasida). It opens the pores of the skin, enhances the blood circulation, nourishes the affected area with fresh blood, improves the eliminative function and facilitates the evacuation of morbid matter from the body.

There are several studies of wet cupping, most of which are as flawed as the one above. This new trial has several limitations, e.g.:

  • It makes no attempt to control for placebo effects which could well be more prominent for wet cupping than for TENS.
  • It did not inhibit the influence of verbal or non-verbal communications between therapists and patients which are likely to influence the results.
  • The sample size is far too small, particularly as the study was designed as an equivalence study.

But some might say that my arguments a petty and argue that, regardless of a flimsy study, wet cupping is still worth a try. I would disagree – not because of the flaws of this study, nor the implausibility of the long-obsolete assumptions that underpin the therapy, but because wet cupping is associaated with infections of the skin lacerations which occasionally can be serious.

 

It does not happen often, but when it does, it should be aknowledged. I am speaking of papers from chiropractors that make sense. If you are interested in chiropractic, I do encourage you to read the articles of which I will here only present bits of the conclusions:

Part 1

The chiropractic profession is weighed down by the burden of historical theories regarding spinal manipulative therapy (SMT), which, for some in the profession, have all the characteristics of dogmatic articles of faith. In our opinion, the unlimited scope of practice, which is still advocated by some chiropractors, and which has not been met with unequivocal political rejection, an over-reliance on SMT in the management of MSK disorders, and an over-emphasis on the technical intricacies of SMT represent weaknesses within chiropractic. We argue that these are obstacles to professional development and the major causes of professional stagnation both intellectually and in the market place.

We also discussed what we consider to be threats to the chiropractic profession. Science, the impact of EBM, and accountability to authorities and third party-payers all pose threats to the traditional chiropractic paradigm and, thus, to those within the profession, who practice within such a paradigm. In the marketplace, competition from other professions that provide care of patients with MSK disorders, including SMT, and are better positioned to be integrated into the wider health-care system/market represent a threat. Moreover, finally, the internal schism in chiropractic represents a threat to professional development, as it prevents the profession moving forward in unison with a coherent external message.

We have described those weaknesses and threats, knowing full well, that we do so from our perspective of chiropractic as EBM with a limited MSK scope of practice, i.e. from outside the subluxation frame of reference.

We recognize that for those who look at SMT from the perspective of traditional, subluxation-based chiropractic, things will look very different: What we identify as weaknesses may be seen by others as the pillars of chiropractic practice, and what we see as threats could appear as just peripheral and ephemeral distractions to the enduring core of chiropractic ideas. Such is the character of the schism at the heart of chiropractic.

None-the-less, having described what we identify as serious weaknesses and threats arising from the profession’s relationship to SMT, it has not escaped our attention that it also gives rise to several strengths, which serve the profession and its patients well. In turn, it follows that a number of opportunities are presenting themselves for the future of SMT and chiropractic.

Part 2

The onus is now on the chiropractic profession itself to redefine its raison d’être in a way that plays to those strengths and delivers in terms of the needs of patients and the wider healthcare system/market. We suggest chiropractors embrace and cultivate a role as coordinators of long-term and broad-focused management of musculoskeletal disorders. We make specific recommendations about how the profession, from individual clinicians to political organizations, can promote such a development.

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For readers in a hurry:

Progress is an inevitable threat to obsolete and useless practices of any kind. In that, chiropractic is no exception.

Some abstracts of medical papers are so bizarre that they must not be tempered with, I find. This is one of them:

Rationale:

This case report aims to provide clinical evidence on the effectiveness of integrating chiropractic and moxibustion techniques for treating pseudomyopia accompanied by elevated intraocular pressure resulting from cervical spine issues because the application of complementary medicine modalities for managing such vision disorders currently lacks adequate investigations.

Patient concerns:

A 6-year-old patient presented with blurred vision, intermittent ocular discomfort, and upper cervical discomfort.

Diagnoses:

Spine-related increased intraocular pressure and pseudomyopia.

Interventions:

The patient received integrative treatment of chiropractic and walnut-shell moxibustion 3 times a week for a total of 10 treatment sessions.

Outcomes:

The patient exhibited progressive improvements in visual acuity and reductions in intraocular pressure over the treatment period, with unaided vision exceeding 2 lines of improvement in visual acuity charts and normalized intraocular pressure after 10 treatment sessions. These therapeutic effects were sustained at 3-month follow-up.

Lessons:

The integrative use of chiropractic and walnut-shell moxibustion demonstrates considerable potential in alleviating symptoms of pseudomyopia, reducing intraocular pressure, and restoring visual function in spine-related pseudomyopia cases.

Pseudomyopia is a spasm of the ciliary muscle that prevents the eye from focusing in the distance. It differs from myopia which is caused by the eye’s shape or other basic anatomy. Pseudomyopia may be either organic, through stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, or functional in origin, through eye strain or fatigue of ocular systems. It is common in young adults after a change in visual requirements, such as students preparing for an exam, or a change in occupation. The condition is often transitory and it is necessary to request psychiatric consultation in each case of pseudomyopia. Comorbidity of anxiety and depressive disorders is more common in pseudomyopia cases. In addition, as the severity of psychiatric symptoms increases, the amount of accommodation also appears to increase.

A few question, if I may:

  • Walnut-shell moxibustion? Yes, it exists! Moxibustion with walnut shell spectacles is a characteristic therapy of Guang’anmen Hospital, developed on the basis of walnut shell moxibustion, and mainly composed of an eye moxibustion frame, a walnut shell soaked with wolfberry and chrysanthemum liquid, and moxibustion strips. Moxibustion with a walnut shell was first recorded by Shicheng Gu for treating surgical ulcers in the Qing dynasty. Then, moxibustion with walnut shell spectacles was reformed by us, combining Shicheng Gu’s experience with our clinical practice, and is mainly used for the treatment of optic nerve atrophy and myopia.
  • The authors state that, “based on traditional Chinese medicine principles, moxibustion is known to warm meridians, dredge collaterals, relax tendons, and enhance blood circulation”. Is this true? Well, based on TCM, anything goes, but it does not make it true.
  • How can we know whether chiropractic or walnut-shell moxibustion or both caused the outcome? We can’t!
  • Can we be sure what caused the child’s problem? No!
  • Do we know whether the outcome was not a spontaneous recovery? No!
  • The authors claim that “cervical spine imbalance leads to visual impairment”. Is that correct? Not as far as I know.
  • The authors state that “the patient in this case, presenting with pseudomyopia, elevated intraocular pressure, and neck pain, likely had a cervical spine-derived condition. Currently, such spine-derived vision disorders lack sufficient clinical recognition.” Is this true? No, I’d say such spine-derived vision disorders might not even exist.
  • Why would anyone publish a paper about the case? Search me!

 

In recent weeks and months, I have been thinking quite a lot about the various types of scientists. This is partly due to me finishing a book entitled: Bizarre Medical Ideas: … and the Strange Men Who Invented Them. Partly it is related to the sorry tale of the GWUP that I have been boring you with repeatedly here. As a consequence of my contemplations, I have added more categories to the usual two types of scientists.

1. SCIENTIST

Scientists gather information through observation and experimentation, formulate hypothesis, and then test them. They work in vastly different areas but have certain attitudes or qualities in common, e.g. critial thinking and an open mind. As scientists tend to publish their findings, a very simple (but not fool-proof) way to identify a scinetist is to look him/her up, for example by finding his/her H-Index. (The H-Index is defined as the maximum value of h such that the given author/journal has published at least h papers that have each been cited at least h times. For instance, if someone has 10 papers that were cited 10 times, his H-Index would be 10. If another scientist has 50 papers that were cited 50 times, his H-Index would be 50.)

2. PSEUDO-SCIENTIST

Pseudo-scientists are people who pretend to produce science but, in fact, they generate pseudoscience. The demarkation of pseudo-science from science is sometimes difficult, as we have seen several times on this blog, e.g.:

The pseudo-scientist does have no or just a few publications in the peer-reviewed literature and no H-Index to speak of.

3. WOULD-BE SCIENTIST

The term ‘would-be scientist’ is not one that is commonly used, nor is it one that has an accepted definition. The way I see it, would-be scientists are aspiring to become scientist. They are on the way to become a scientist but have not quite arrived yet. To the would-be scientist I say: good luck to you; I hope you make it and I look forward to reading about your scientific achievements. The would-be scientist is, however, not the topic of my post.

4. THE PREDEND-SCIENTIST

The predent-scientist (PS) is the one who I want to focus on here. He – yes, the PS is usually male – talks a lot about science; so much so that outsiders would get the impression that he actually is a scientist. Crucially, the PS himself has managed to delude himself to the point where believes to be a scientist.

While scientists tend to be media-shy, the PS enjoys the limelight to generate the impression of being a scientist. He talks eloquently and at length about science. Much of what he says or writes might even be correct. The PS is often quite well-versed and knows (most of) his stuff.

The crucial difference between the PS and the scientist is that the PS produces no or very little science; neither does he intend to. To identify the PS, an easy (but not fool-proof) method is to him look up. Typically, he has published several articles in the popoular press or books for the lay public, but – as he does not conduct scientific research – he does not generate papers in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. This void, however, has never stopped the PS from appearing in the media speaking about science, nor from occupying prominent positions in the world of science, nor from avidly rubbing shoulders with scientists. Few people see anything wrong with that, mainly because the PS has convinced them (most importantly himself) that he actually is a scientist. While the scientist is trained in doing science, the PS is trained in talking about science.

Don’t get me wrong, the PS can have his merits. He often presents science to the public more or less accurately and frequently is rhetorically superior to the scientist. I nevertheless have reservations about the PS (and the recent pandemic has shown us how dangerous PSs can beome). The questions to ask ourselves are the following:

  • Does PS have a truly open mind?
  • Can he set aside ideologies?
  • Will he change his opinion vis a vis new evidence?
  • Is he prepared to consider criticism?
  • Does he avoid ‘black and white’ thinking?
  • Is he sufficiently humble?
  • Is he honest with himself and others?

These questions refer to important attitudes that scientists learn – often the hard way – while doing science. If someone lacks this experience, such attitudes are likely to be under-developed. Perhaps, it all boils down to honesty: if a man who has never done any amount of science to speak of has convinced himself to be a scientist, he arguably is dishonest with himself and the public.

In order to make my points as clearly as possible, I admittedly caricaturized the extremes of a wider spectrum; my appologies for that. In reality, the different types of scientists rarely exist as entirely pure forms. Frequently, people are mixtures of two types, either because they did different things during different periods of their lives, or because they simply are hybrids.

To provide a few examples, let me show you 14 H-Indices (according to ‘Google Scholar’) of people (in alphabetical order) who you might have heard of, for instance, because they have featured on my blog. I leave it up to you to decide how well they fit in any of my three categories and who might qualify to be a PS.

  1. Fabrizio Benedetti – H-Index = 83
  2. David Colquhoun – H-Index = 78
  3. Ian Chalmers – H-Index = 84
  4. Michael Dixon – H-Index = 0
  5. David Gorski – H-Index = 30
  6. Holm Hümmler – H-Index = 0
  7. Ted Kaptchuk – H-Index = 103
  8. Jos Kleinjen – H-Index = 104
  9. Andreas Michalsen – H-Index = 0
  10. Michael Mosely – H-Index = 0
  11. Dana Ullman – H-Index = 0
  12. Dale Thompson (alias DC) – H-Index = 0
  13. Chris van Tulleken – H-Index = 0
  14. Harald Walach – H-Index = 9

My conclusion: the PS, a person who presents himself as a scientist without having done any meaningful amount of science himself, is a man who is not entirely honest. The H-Index can be helpful for identifying PSs. An index of zero, for instance, seems to send out a fairly clear message. In the case low indices, it is advisable to go one step further and study the actual articles That mede up the index. However, the H-Index tells us nothing about whether someone presents himself as a scientist; this information must be gleaned from the person him(her)self.

 

 

 

These days, it has become a rare event – I am speaking of me publishing a paper in the peer-reviewed medical literature. But it has just happened: Spanish researchers and I published a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of craniosacral therapy. Here is its abstract:

The aim of this study was to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of craniosacral therapy (CST) in the management of any conditions. Two independent reviewers searched the PubMed, Physiotherapy Evidence Database, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, and Osteopathic Medicine Digital Library databases in August 2023, and extracted data from randomized controlled trials (RCT) evaluating the clinical effectiveness of CST. The PEDro scale and Cochrane Risk of Bias 2 tool were used to assess the potential risk of bias in the included studies. The certainty of the evidence of each outcome variable was determined using GRADEpro. Quantitative synthesis was carried out with RevMan 5.4 software using random effect models.

Fifteen RCTs were included in the qualitative and seven in the quantitative synthesis. For musculoskeletal disorders, the qualitative and quantitative synthesis suggested that CST produces no statistically significant or clinically relevant changes in pain and/or disability/impact in patients with headache disorders, neck pain, low back pain, pelvic girdle pain, or fibromyalgia. For non-musculoskeletal disorders, the qualitative and quantitative synthesis showed that CST was not effective for managing infant colic, preterm infants, cerebral palsy, or visual function deficits.

We concluded that the qualitative and quantitative synthesis of the evidence suggest that CST produces no benefits in any of the musculoskeletal or non-musculoskeletal conditions assessed. Two RCTs suggested statistically significant benefits of CST in children. However, both studies are seriously flawed, and their findings are thus likely to be false positive.

So, CST is not really an effective option for any condition.

Not a big surprise! After all, the assumptions on which CST is based fly in the face of science.

Since CST is nonetheless being used by many healthcare professionals, it is, I feel, important to state and re-state that CST is an implausible intervention that is not supported by clinical evidence. Hopefully then, one day, these practitioners will remember that their ethical obligation is to treat their patients not according to their beliefs but according to the best available evidence. And, hopefully, our modest paper will have helped rendering healthcare a little less irrational and somewhat more effective.

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