The purpose of this systematic review was to assess the effectiveness and safety of conservative interventions compared with other interventions, placebo/sham interventions, or no intervention on disability, pain, function, quality of life, and psychological impact in adults with cervical radiculopathy (CR), a painful condition caused by the compression or irritation of the nerves that supply the shoulders, arms and hands.
A multidisciplinary team autors searched MEDLINE, CENTRAL, CINAHL, Embase, and PsycINFO from inception to June 15, 2022 to identify studies that were:
- randomized trials,
- had at least one conservative treatment arm,
- diagnosed participants with CR through confirmatory clinical examination and/or diagnostic tests.
Studies were appraised using the Cochrane Risk of Bias 2 tool and the quality of the evidence was rated using the Grades of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation approach.
Of the 2561 records identified, 59 trials met the inclusion criteria (n = 4108 participants). Due to clinical and statistical heterogeneity, the findings were synthesized narratively.
There is very-low certainty evidence supporting the use of:
- cervical manipulation,
- low-level laser therapy
for pain and disability in the immediate to short-term, and
- thoracic manipulation,
- low-level laser therapy
for improvements in cervical range of motion in the immediate term.
There is low to very-low certainty evidence for multimodal interventions, providing inconclusive evidence for pain, disability, and range of motion.
There is inconclusive evidence for pain reduction after conservative management compared with surgery, rated as very-low certainty.
The authors concluded that there is a lack of high-quality evidence, limiting our ability to make any meaningful conclusions. As the number of people with CR is expected to increase, there is an urgent need for future research to help address these gaps.
Yet, to patients suffering from CR, this is hardly constructive advice. What should they do vis a vis such disappointing evidence?
They might speak to a orthopedic surgeon; but often there is no indication for an operation. What then?
Patients are bound to try some of the conservative options – but which one?
- Cervical manipulation,?
- Low-level laser therapy?
My advice is this: be patient – the vast majority of cases resolves spontaneously regardless of therapy – and, if you are desperate, try any of them except cervical manipulation which is burdened with the risk of serious complications and often makes things worse.
Every now and then, I come across a paper that is so remarkable that I feel like copying it for you in its full and untouched beauty. The recent article entitled “Revisiting the therapeutic potential of homeopathic medicine Rhus Tox for herpes simplex virus and inflammatory conditions” falls in this category. Let me present to you its unchanged abstract as recently published in the ‘J Ayurveda Integr Med’:
Background: Herpes simplex virus type-1 and type-2 cause a viral disease named Herpes. Genital herpes is mainly caused by HSV-2 with symptoms of painful and itchy blisters on the vagina, cervix, buttocks, anus, penis, or inner thighs with blisters that rupture and convert into sores. The homeopathic remedy Rhus Tox has been widely used to treat herpes and has shown invitro anti-inflammatory effects in previous studies.
Purpose: The presented review focuses on relapses and harmful effects caused by acyclovir in modern medicine and the probable antiherpetic activity of Rhus Tox on HSV infection based on its pathophysiology, preclinical findings, on primary cultured mouse chondrocytes, mouse cell line MC3T3e1 and a comparative study of Natrum Mur with Rhus Tox on HSV infection.
Study design: The design of the study focuses mainly on the descriptive data available in various literature articles.
Method: Databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, Medline and ScienceDirect were used to search the articles. Articles are selected from 1994 to 2022 focusing solely on the competence of Rhus Tox against herpes. Keywords used for the study are antiviral, Herpes, Rhus Tox, in vitro and homeopathy.
Results: The review includes fifteen articles, including 4 full-text articles on HSV, 6 in vitro studies of homeopathic compounds performed on the herpes virus, and 5 articles based on the pathophysiology and effects of Rhus tox. The review article proposes the anti-inflammatory and antiviral action of the homeopathic remedy Rhus Tox which can be used in crisis conditions when the physician doubts the simillimum, as it prevents further outbreaks of HSV infection.
Conclusion: The homeopathic medicine Rhus Tox has no cytotoxicity observed under in vitro conditions and can be used to treat herpes infection. Further studies are needed to confirm the results under in vitro and in vivo conditions as well as in clinical trials.
Considering that the paper was based on ‘descriptive data available in various literature articles’, the conclusion that “Rhus Tox … can be used to treat herpes infection” is surprising, to say the least.
In the paper itself we find many more baffling statements, e.g.:
- Modern medicines target only specific organs at a time, but there is a risk of widespread infection which influence complications such as meningitis or HSV-2 radiculopathy which are not observed after the use of homeopathy as the disease progression does not involve vital organs and the disease level stays on the skin layer itself.
- Homeopathy treats patients holistically taking into consideration all the physical, mental and characteristic ailments of the patient. Rhus tox can effectively relieve all the symptoms of herpes infection, including pain, blisters, redness, restlessness, etc. Rhus Tox can effectively penetrate the capsid structure of the infected cells and cure the patient. Rhus tox in different potencies is currently being used to treat inflammatory and viral diseases
- In homeopathy, many treatments have been clinically proven to have some impact, and in individual cases a solution for herpes viruses. Homeopathy can prevent further outbreaks of herpes simplex infection.
- Homeopathy strengthens immunity to fight infections and contributes to mental, physical, and social well-being, hence complementary therapies should be used along with the traditional antiviral drugs to give maximum comfort to the patient.
I am sure that some readers of the paper are impressed. These statments leave little doubt about the notion that homeopathy is the best thing since sliced bread. What a pity though that, for none of them, the authors (who incedently are affiliated with prestigeous sounding institutions: Homeopathic Materia Medica Department, Bharti Vidyapeeth, Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Dept. of Postgraduate & Research Centre, Pune-Satara Road, Dhankawadi, Pune, 411043, India, ICMR-National AIDS Research Institute, 73 G MIDC Bhosari, Pune, India, ICMR-National AIDS Research Institute, 73 G MIDC Bhosari, Pune, India) provide any evidence whatsoever.
Homeopathy, it seems to me, is a cult characterised not just by a total lack of active ingredients but also by an equally total void of proper evidence supporting the delusions of its proponents.
So-called alternative medicine (SCAM) interventions are often being discussed as possible treatments for long COVID symptoms. However, comprehensive analysis of current evidence in this setting is still lacking. This review aims to review existing published studies on the use of SCAM interventions for patients experiencing long COVID through a systematic review.
A comprehensive electronic literature search was performed in multiple databases and clinical trial registries from September 2019 to January 2023. RCTs evaluating efficacy and safety of SCAM for long COVID were included. Methodological quality of each included trial was appraised with the Cochrane ‘risk of bias’ tool. A qualitative analysis was conducted due to heterogeneity of included studies.
A total of 14 RCTs with 1195 participants were included in this review. Study findings demonstrated that SCAM interventions could benefit patients with long COVID, especially those suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders, olfactory dysfunction, cognitive impairment, fatigue, breathlessness, and mild-to-moderate lung fibrosis. The main interventions reported were self-administered transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation, neuro-meditation, dietary supplements, olfactory training, aromatherapy, inspiratory muscle training, concurrent training, and an online breathing and well-being program.
The authors concluded that SCAM interventions may be effective, safe, and acceptable to patients with symptoms of long COVID. However, the findings from this systematic review should be interpreted with caution due to various methodological limitations. More rigorous trials focused on SCAM for long COVID are warranted in the future.
The review’s aim is, in my view, nonsense. SCAM is a diverse field which means that the review must capture a wide range of therapies each represented by just one or two primary studies. In turn, this means that general conclusions across all SCAM will be highly questionable, if not misleading.
Furthermore, I find these conclusions odd and irresponsibly misleading. My main reason for this is the poor methodological quality of the primary studies:
- Four trials were considered to have unknown bias risk for generating the random sequence due to insufficient information about the specific method of randomization used.
- Only 5 of the trials provided appropriate random allocation concealment.
- Only 5 trials were blinded to both participants and personnel.
- Three trials were rated as unknown risk of bias since insufficient information was provided.1
- Four trials failed to performed outcome assessment blinding.
- One trial did not report detailed information about drop-out cases and was defined as high risk of bias.
- Three study protocols were unavailable and had relevant outcomes that were not reported in the pre-specified way.
Moreover, safety cannot possibly be reliably estimated on the basis of the data. And finally, the statement that SCAM interventions may be effective, as the authors put it, is in my view not a valid conclusion but a silly platitude.
I therefore suggest to re-formulate the conclusion of this review as follows:
At present there is no sound evidence to assume that any SCAM intervention is effective in the management of long COVID.
A case report of a U-type sacral fracture, or spinopelvic dissociation, resulting from chiropractic manipulation has recently been published. It presents the case of a 74-year-old male patient who sustained a U-type sacral fracture after drop-table chiropractic manipulation.
The drop table chiropractic technique is claimed by chiropractors to involve lesser brute force for spinal manipulation than traditional chiropractic care. It involves low-velocity movement and less spinal manoeuvring on the specific area of injury. It is said to be particularly beneficial for adjusting the pelvis or sacroiliac joints. Furthermore, this is, according to chiros, one of the only methods that can adjust spondylolisthesis. In fact, the evidence that it is effective for anything other that boosting the chiros’ income is more than thin, while there is at least one tragic report that it can be lethal.
The recent case of a spinopelvic dissociation demonstrates that chiropractic manipulative therapy involving the commonly used drop-table can cause severe injury. The patient’s course was complicated by a delay in diagnosis and a prolonged hospital stay. Orthopaedic surgeons should have a high degree of suspicion for spinopelvic dissociation in the setting of bilateral sacral fractures. One year after injury, with conservative management, the patient returned to baseline function with mild residual neuropathy.
Spinopelvic dissociation is a rare injury associated with 2% to 3% of transverse sacral fractures and 3% of sacral fractures associated with pelvic ring injuries. When spinopelvic dissociation is expediently identified and treated appropriately, patient outcomes can be maximized, highlighting the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. Because of its rarity and complexity, there remains a paucity of high-level evidence-based guidance on treating this complex issue. Most cases are caused by a fall from heights, followed by road accidents. Many patients show neurologic impairment at initial presentation, which often improves after surgery, the treatment of choice.
Mushrooms are somewhat neglected in medical research, I often feel. This systematic review focused on clinical studies testing the effectiveness of mushrooms in cancer care. A total of 39 met the authors’ inclusion criteria. The studies included 12 different mushroom preparations. Some of the findings were encouraging:
- A survival benefit was reported using Huaier granules (Trametes robiniophila Murr) in 2 hepatocellular carcinoma studies and 1 breast cancer study.
- A survival benefit was also found in 4 gastric cancer studies using polysaccharide-K (polysaccharide-Kureha; PSK) as an adjuvant therapy.
- Eleven studies reported a positive immunological response.
- Quality-of-life (QoL) improvement and/or reduced symptom burden was reported in 14 studies using various mushroom supplements.
- Most studies reported adverse effects of grade 2 or lower, mainly nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle pain.
The authors caution that limitations included small sample size and not using randomized controlled trial design. Many of the reviewed studies were observational. Most showed favorable effects of mushroom supplements in reducing the toxicity of chemotherapy, improving QoL, favorable cytokine response, and possibly better clinical outcomes.
The authors concluded that the evidence is inconclusive to recommend the routine use of mushrooms for cancer patients. More trials are needed to explore mushroom use during and after cancer treatment.
The use of mushrooms for medicinal purposes has a long history in many cultures. Some mushrooms are known to be highly poisonous, some have hallucinogenic effects, and some are assumed to have pharmacological effects that have therapeutic potential. Some mushrooms possess pharmacologic properties such as anti-tumour, immunomodulating, antioxidant, cardiovascular, anti-hypercholesterolemic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, detoxification, hepatoprotective, and anti-diabetic effects.
Many modern medicines were derived from fungi. The best-known example is penicillin; others include several cancer drugs, statins and immunosuppressants. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, numerous herbal mixtures contain mushrooms; examples are reishi, maitake and shiitake which are all assumed to have anti-cancer properties.
As the review authors point out, there is a paucity of clinical trials testing the effectiveness of mushrooms, and the existing studies tend to be of poor quality. At present, most of our knowledge comes from traditional use or test-tube studies. The adverse effects depend on the specific mushroom in question and, can in some instances, be serious.
Considering the potential and the complexity of mycomedicine, I find it surprising to not see much more research into this subject.
It has been reported that a man has been charged after the death of a woman attending a slapping therapy workshop run by Hongchi Xiao. Danielle Carr-Gomm died aged 71 at Cleeve House in Seend, Wiltshire, on 20 October 2016. Hongchi Xiao (60), an alternative healer who advocates a technique known as “slapping therapy”, living in Cloudbreak in California, has now been charged with manslaughter by gross negligence, after being extradited back to the UK.
Xiao promotes paida lajin therapy, also called slapping therapy, in which patients are slapped or slap themselves repeatedly, ostensibly to release toxins from the body. Patients often end up with bruises or bleeding. The technique has its roots in Chinese medicine, but critics say it has no scientific basis. Xiao, who is originally from China and runs the California-based Pailala Institute, has led paida lajin workshops around the world.
Carr-Gomm’s son Matthew said after his mother’s death that she had sought “alternative methods of treating and dealing with her diabetes” because she struggled to inject insulin due to a fear of needles. “I know she was desperate to try and cure herself of this disease,” he said. “She always maintained a healthy lifestyle and was adamant that nothing would stop her from living a full life.”
A warrant for Mr Xiao’s arrest was originally issued in October 2019. He has now been arrested after returning to the United Kingdom from Australia on an extradition warrant and was taken to Gablecross custody in Swindon where he was charged with manslaughter by gross negligence. Police said Xiao, 60, is due to appear in court in Salisbury, southwest England, on Friday.
The Pailala Institute claims to be a non-profit organization incorporated in California. It is managed by a team of non-paying volunteers to promote and support the self-healing practice of Paida Lajin, led by Mr. HongChi Xiao. Their mission is to “transform our world into a healthier place, by enabling every one of us to awaken our self-healing power, we were born with, to heal ourselves, reducing medical cost and its related potential side effects.”
The institute also claims that “based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, the practice of PaidaLajin helps you to relieve from chronic pain, hypertension or diabetes, without equipment or medication. It can quickly improve your circulation and let your body heal itself. PaidaLajin has facilitated the healing of over 210 different illnesses worldwide. Join millions of practitioners in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Germany, Indonesia, India, South Africa, Australia, etc. Just Google and following their witnesses.”
It goes almost without saying that the evidence for slapping therapy’s effectiveness is non-existent.
That proponents of anthroposophic medicine have strange attitudes towards established and effective immunizations is hardly a secret. The authors of this review defined anthroposophic communities as people following some/certain views more or less loosely connected to the philosophies of anthroposophy. Their systematic review firstly collated evidence documenting outbreaks linked to anthroposophic communities.
A total of 18 measles outbreaks occurred between 1997 and 2011 in European countries. Eight out of 18 measles outbreaks started at Waldorf schools throughout Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, and the UK. Although data from community reporting was limited, the measles cases at Waldorf schools were predominantly higher than in mainstream private or state schools across the five countries. Offering measles vaccination catch-ups by public health authorities (which is an effective way to manage a measles outbreak) was described in several articles but was largely refused by both parents and Waldorf schools. The most effective outbreak control strategy was the immediate closure of the Waldorf school and strict rules regarding entry to the school upon reopening.
Secondly, the review summarized the literature on vaccination coverage in anthroposophic communities. Six articles described vaccine coverage in anthroposophic communities, and one article described the personal belief exception (PBE) rate at Waldorf school in the USA. The papers focussed predominantly on diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and poliomyelitis (DPTP), and mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccines. Two studies studying the vaccination coverage at Waldorf pre-schools/schools, demonstrated overall low immunization coverage at those schools. One article focusing on PBE rates demonstrated a proportionally high rate at Waldorf schools in California. Three studies from the Netherlands measure vaccination coverage in general and focussed specifically on whether there were special groups that showed specifically low coverage. In these studies, anthroposophic communities were identified as showing low coverage. However, one study suggested that anthroposophic communities are not as significant in terms of low coverage as low-income groups. One paper described rates of vaccination refusal in Switzerland. It showed that complementary alternative medicine users, including people who draw on anthroposophic medicine, are more likely to refuse vaccination. However, the paper also shows that this group was more likely to vaccinate against tick-borne diseases and encephalitis than the general population.
Thirdly, the review discussed the literature that summarized theories and factors influencing vaccine decision-making in anthroposophic communities. Eight articles examining factors and theories influencing vaccine decision-making in anthroposophic communities were included. Five articles focused on parents of children attending Waldorf schools or who considered themselves part of an anthroposophic community. Three articles focused on the perspectives of anthroposophic healthcare providers, although two of those articles mixed and compared views with other alternative/complementary providers or allopathic health providers. Of the eight articles, two were quantitative and did not provide an in-depth discussion. The qualitative findings from six articles were summarized in-depth and revealed four themes.
The authors concluded that this systematic review showed that there have been several measles outbreaks linked to anthroposophic communities in Europe. Although studies on vaccination coverage in anthroposophic communities are limited, it appears that coverage is lower than in the general population. Monitoring outbreak numbers and vaccination coverage could be important. Popular beliefs about the anthroposophic communities’ vaccination beliefs are challenged in this review. As the evidence shows the communities are not categorically against vaccines. Moreover, there are a myriad of factors that influence vaccine decision-making of parents belonging to an anthroposophic community. The importance of experiencing childhood illnesses and concerns over long-term side effects were mentioned. Moreover, parents want to be able to individually select vaccines for their children. They consider themselves actively engaged in vaccine decision-making and well-informed. Stigma regarding vaccine choices was mentioned repeatedly mostly by people outside of the anthroposophic community but also by people within the community. This review calls for a better understanding of vaccine choices and beliefs for vaccines beyond MMR, in particular HPV vaccines. The review also highlights a potentially important research gap, which constitutes understanding not only a belief system but the role that stigma may play in making decisions about vaccines.
If you ask where this strange anti-vaccination stance of anthroposophic medicine comes from, you don’t need to look far:
“In the future, we will eliminate the soul with medicine.
Under the pretext of a ‘healthy point of view’, there will be a vaccine by which the human body will be treated as soon as possible directly at birth,
(1) so that the human being cannot develop the thought of the existence of soul and Spirit.
To materialistic doctors, will be entrusted with the task of removing the soul of humanity.
As today, people are vaccinated against this disease or disease, so in the future, children will
(2) be vaccinated with a substance that can be produced precisely in such a way that people, thanks to this vaccination, will be immune to being subjected to the “madness” of spiritual life.
He would be extremely smart, but he would not develop a conscience, and that is the
(3) true goal of some materialistic circles.
With such a vaccine, you can easily make the etheric body loose in the physical body.
Once the etheric body is detached, the relationship between the universe and the etheric body would become extremely unstable, and man would become
(4) an automaton, for the physical body of man must be polished on this Earth by spiritual will.
So, the vaccine becomes a kind of arymanique [Ahrimanic] force; man can no longer get rid of a given materialistic feeling.
(5) He becomes materialistic of constitution and can no longer rise to the spiritual “.
Despite effective vaccines, there is still a need for effective treatments for COVID, especially for people in the community. Dietary supplements have long been used to treat respiratory infections, and preliminary evidence indicates some may be effective in people with COVID-19. This study tested whether a combination of vitamin C, vitamin D3, vitamin K2 and zinc would improve overall health and decrease symptom burden in outpatients diagnosed with COVID-19.
Participants were randomised to receive either vitamin C (6 g), vitamin D3 (1000 units), vitamin K2 (240 μg) and zinc acetate (75 mg) or placebo daily for 21 days and were followed for 12 weeks. An additional loading dose of 50 000 units vitamin D3 (or placebo) was given on day one. The primary outcome was participant-reported overall health using the EuroQol Visual Assessment Scale summed over 21 days. Secondary outcomes included health status, symptom severity, symptom duration, delayed return to usual health, frequency of hospitalisation and mortality.
A total of 90 patients (46 control, 44 treatment) were randomised. The study was stopped prematurely due to insufficient capacity for recruitment. The mean difference (control-treatment) in cumulative overall health was -37.4 (95% CI -157.2 to 82.3), p=0.53 on a scale of 0-2100. No clinically or statistically significant differences were seen in any secondary outcomes.
The authors concluded that, in this double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial of outpatients diagnosed with COVID-19, the dietary supplements vitamin C, vitamin D3, vitamin K2 and zinc acetate showed no clinically or statistically significant effects on the documented measures of health compared with a placebo when given for 21 days. Termination due to feasibility limited our ability to demonstrate the efficacy of these supplements for COVID-19. Further research is needed to determine clinical utility.
In several ways I am puzzled by this study. On the other hand, I should congratulate the naturopathic authors for honestly reporting such a squarely negative result. One could, of course, argue that the study was under-powered and that thus the findings are not conclusive. However, the actual survival curve depicting the results show clearly that there was not even the tiniest trend for the supplement to show any effect. In other words, a larger sample would have most likely yielded the same result.
Participants randomised to the treatment arm received:
- Vitamin D3 50 000 units orally once on day 1 of the study (capsule).
- Vitamin K2/D3 120 μg/500 units orally two times per day for 21 days (liquid).
- Vitamin C/Zinc acetate 2 g/25 mg orally three times daily for 21 days (capsule).
I fail to understand why the researchers might have conceived the hypothesis that such a mixture would be effective. Only 90 of a planned 200 participants were enrolled in this study which ran between September 2021 and April 2022. I fail to understand why recruitment was so poor that the study eventually had to be aborted. My speculation is that the naturopaths in charge of running the trial were too inexperienced in conducting such research to make it a success.
The study was supported by the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre Foundation and by Mavis and Martin Sacher. All investigational products for this study were provided in-kind by New Roots Herbal. Perhaps in future these sponsors should think again before they support amateurs pretending to be scientists?
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.
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.