Spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) is widely used worldwide to treat musculoskeletal and many other conditions. The evidence that it works for any of them is weak, non-existent, or negative. What is worse, SMT can – as we have discussed so often on this blog – cause adverse events some of which are serious, even fatal.
Spinal epidural hematoma (SEH) caused by SMT is a rare emergency that can cause neurological dysfunction. Chinese researchers recently reported three cases of SEH after SMT.
- The first case was a 30-year-old woman who experienced neck pain and numbness in both upper limbs immediately after SMT. Her symptoms persisted after 3 d of conservative treatment, and she was admitted to our hospital. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrated an SEH, extending from C6 to C7.
- The second case was a 55-year-old man with sudden back pain 1 d after SMT, numbness in both lower limbs, an inability to stand or walk, and difficulty urinating. MRI revealed an SEH, extending from T1 to T3.
- The third case was a 28-year-old man who suddenly developed symptoms of numbness in both lower limbs 4 h after SMT. He was unable to stand or walk and experienced mild back pain. MRI revealed an SEH, extending from T1 to T2.
All three patients underwent surgery after failed conservative treatment and all recovered to ASIA grade E on day 5, 1 wk, and day 10 after surgery, respectively. All patients returned to normal after 3 mo of follow-up.
The authors concluded that SEH caused by SMT is very rare, and the condition of each patient should be evaluated in full detail before operation. SEH should be diagnosed immediately and actively treated by surgery.
These cases might serve as an apt reminder of the fact that SMT (particularly SMT of the neck) is not without its dangers. The authors’ assurance that SEH is VERY RARE is a little puzzling, in my view (the paper includes a table with all 17 previously published cases). There is, as we often have mentioned, no post-marketing surveillance, surgeons only see those patients who survive such complications long enough to come to the hospital, and they publish such cases only if they feel like it. Consequently, the true incidence is anyone’s guess.
As pointed out earlier, the evidence that SMT might be effective is shaky for most indications. In view of the potential for harm, this can mean only one thing:
The risk/benefit balance for SMT is not demonstrably positive.
In turn, this leads to the conclusion that patients should think twice before having SMT and should inquire about other therapeutic options that have a more positive risk/benefit balance. Similarly, the therapists proposing SMT to a patient have the ethical and moral duty to obtain fully informed consent which includes information about the risk/benefit balance of SMT and other options.
These days, I live in France (some of my time) and I am often baffled by the number of osteopaths and the high level of acceptance of osteopathy in this country. The public seems to believe everything osteopaths claim and even most doctors have long given up to object to the idiocies they proclaim.
The website of the Institute of Osteopathy in Renne is but one of many examples. The Institute informed us as follows (my translation):
In addition to back pain, the osteopath can act on functional disorders of the digestive, neurological, cardiovascular systems or conditions related to ear, nose and throat. Osteopaths can promote recovery in athletes, relieve migraines, musculoskeletal disorders such as tendonitis, or treat sleep disorders. Less known for its preventive aspect, osteopathy also helps maintain good health. It can be effective even when everything is going well because it will prevent the appearance of pain. Osteopathy is, in fact, a manual medicine that allows the rebalancing of the major systems of the body, whatever the age of the patient and his problems. The osteopath looks for the root cause of your complaint in order to develop a curative and preventive treatment.
Who are osteopathic consultations for?
Osteopathic consultations at the Institute of Osteopathy of Rennes-Bretagne are intended for the following types of patients and pathologies
BABY / CHILD
GERD (gastric reflux), plagiocephaly (cranial deformities), recurrent ENT disorders (sinusitis, ear infections…), digestive, sleep and behavioural disorders, motor delay, following a difficult birth…
Prevention, comfort treatment of osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal pain, functional abdominal pain, digestive disorders, headaches, dizziness, postural deficiency, facial pains…
Musculoskeletal pain (lumbago, back pain), digestive disorders, preparation for childbirth, post-partum check-up.
Prevention and treatment of MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) linked to workstation ergonomics, stress, pain due to repetitive movements, poor posture at work, etc.
Scoliosis, prevention of certain pathologies linked to growth, fatigue, stress, follow-up of orthodontic treatment.
Musculoskeletal pain, tendonitis, osteopathic preparation for competition, osteopathic assessment according to the sport practised, repetitive injury.
In case you are not familiar with the evidence for osteopathy, let me tell you that as good as none of the many claims made in the above text is supported by anything that even resembles sound evidence.
So, how can we explain that, in France, osteopathy is allowed to thrive in a virtually evidence-free space?
In France, osteopathy started developing in the 1950s. In 2002, osteopathy received legislative recognition in France, and today, it is booming; between 2016 and 2018, 3589 osteopaths were trained in France. Osteopaths can be DO doctors, DO physiotherapists, DO nurses, DO midwives, DO chiropodists, or even DO dentists.
Thus, in 2018, and out of a total of 29,612 professionals practising osteopathy, there were 17,897 osteopaths DO and 11,715 DO health professionals. The number of professionals using the title of osteopath has roughly tripled in 8 years (11608 in 2010 for 29612 in 2018). There are currently around 30 osteopathic schools in France. About 3 out of 5 French people now consult osteopaths.
But this does not answer my question why, in France, osteopathy is allowed to thrive in a virtually evidence-free space! To be honest, I do not know its answer.
Perhaps someone else does?
If so, please enlighten me.
On FACEBOOK I recently found this advertisement posted by ‘LifeCell Health’
Guys, weight loss starts at our gut. The reishi mushroom targets this key area of the body and promotes weight loss in a unique way, by changing our gut bacteria to digest food in a manner that improves weight loss and can even prevent weight gain. By combining 3 of the most researched mycological species on the planet, LifeCell Myco+ delivers a blend of weight loss mushrooms like no other: Improve gut health, speed up weight loss, enhance immune function, natural energy and more with our blend of Reishi, Turkey Tail, and Shiitake mushrooms. Each mushroom has been the subject of several in-vivo studies proving their efficacy when it comes to weight loss.
Why Mushrooms Work.
Reishi: Prevents weight gain by altering bacteria inside the digestive system
Shiitake: Helps the body develop less fat by nourishing good gut bacteria.
Turkey Tail: Reduces inflammation and helps prevent weight gain.
That sounded interesting, I thought, and I investigated a bit further. On the website of the firm, I found this text:
By combining 3 of the most researched mycological species on the planet, LifeCell Myco+ delivers an organic wellness formula unlike any other. Improve gut health, speed up weight loss, enhance immune function, natural energy and more with our blend of Reishi, Turkey Tail, and Shiitake mushrooms.
Keeping a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut is critical for maintaining a strong immune system. Your gut bacteria interact with immune cells and directly impact your immune response. Turkey tail mushrooms contain prebiotics, which help nourish these helpful bacteria. An 8-week study in 24 healthy people found that consuming 3,600 mg of PSP extracted from turkey tail mushrooms per day led to beneficial changes in gut bacteria and suppressed the growth of the possibly problematic E. coli and Shigella bacteria.
Next, I conducted a few Medline searches but was unable to find any trial data suggesting that any of the three mushrooms or their combination might reduce body weight. So, I wrote to the company:
I am intrigued by your product MYCO +. Would you be kind enough to send me the studies showing that it can reduce body weight?
What followed was a bizarre correspondence with several layers of administrators in the firm. They all said that I should discuss this with the next higher person. So, I asked myself up the hierarchy of LiveCell. The last email I received was this one:
Good morning Edzark,
Thank you for your email and I hope you are enjoying your day.
It is great to hear that you are interested in our LifeCell Myco. I have forwarded your request for additional information and once received I will be sure to forward the information to you.
What do I conclude from this experience?
Apart from being unable to get my name right, the people responsible at ‘LifeCell Health’ seem also not able to send me the evidence I asked for. This, I fear, means that there is no such evidence which means the claims are unsubstantiated. Scientifically, this might amount to misconduct; legally, it could be fraudulent.
But I am, of course, no lawyer and therefore leave it to others to address the legal issues.
If anyone happens to know of some evidence, please let me know and I will correct my post accordingly.
I have often warned that, even if chiropractic manipulations were harmless (which they are clearly not), this would not necessarily apply to those who administer them, the chiropractors. They can do harm via interfering or advising against conventional interventions (the best-research example is immunization) or by treating conditions that they are not competent to tackle (like ear infections), or giving advice that endangers the health of the patient.
Italian authors reported the case of a 67-year-old woman, who had been suffering from low back pain due to herniated discs, decided to undergo chiropractic treatment. According to the chiropractor’s prescription, the patient drank about 8 liters of water in a day. During the afternoon, she developed headaches, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue, for which reason she consulted the chiropractor, who reassured the patient and suggested continuing the treatment in order to purify the body. The next day, following the intake of another 6 liters of water, the patient developed sudden water retention, loss of consciousness, and tonic-clonic seizures; for this reason, she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit with a coma from electrolyte alterations.
The diagnosis of water intoxication was stated based on the history reported by the family members; according to the clinical findings, the hydro-electrolytic alterations were adequately corrected, allowing the disease resolution. Once resolved the intoxication, the patient underwent surgery to treat a shoulder dislocation and a humerus fracture which occurred due to a fall consequent to the tonic-clonic seizures.
The Judicial Authority thus ordered a medico-legal evaluation of the chiropractor’s behavior in order to identify any professional liability issue.
The Italian authors commented that this case is peculiar since it shows the dangerous implications for the patients’ health and safety deriving from the prescription of a large quantity of water intake, without any control by the chiropractor, and thus underestimating the risks of such a practice, as evidenced by the suggestion to continue the water intake aiming to detoxify the body from pharmacological substances. As a consequence, the patient developed a severe form of hyponatremia, leading to life-threatening complications that could have been otherwise avoided.
The medico-legal evaluation of the case led to the admission of professional liability of the chiropractor, who
thus had to pay the damages to the patient.
It is, of course, tempting to argue that the patient was not very clever to follow this ridiculous advice (and that the chiropractor was outright stupid to give it). One might even go further and argue that most patients trusting chiros are not all that smart … one could … but it is far from me to do so.
Two chiropractors conducted a retrospective review of publicly available data from the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Their aim was to determine categories of offense, experience, and gender of disciplined doctors of chiropractic (DC) in California and compare them with disciplined medical physicians in California.
The DC disciplinary categories, in descending order, were
- fraud (44%),
- sexual boundary issues (22%),
- other offences (13%),
- abuse of alcohol or drugs (10%),
- negligence or incompetence (6%),
- poor supervision (2%),
- mental impairment (.3%).
The authors concluded that the professions differ in the major reasons for disciplinary actions. Two thirds (67%) of the doctors of chiropractic were disciplined for fraud and sexual boundary issues, compared with 59% for negligence and substance misuse for medical physicians. Additional study in each profession may reveal methods to identify causes and possible intervention for those who are at high risk.
The two authors of this paper should be congratulated for their courage to publish such a review. These figures seem shocking. But I think that in reality some of them might be far higher. Take the important matter of competence, for instance. If you consider it competent that chiropractors treat conditions other than back pain, you might arrive at the above-mentioned figure of 6%. If you consider this as incompetent, as I do, the figure might be one order of magnitude higher (for more on unprofessional conduct by chiropractors see here).
The abstract of the paper does not provide comparisons to the data related to the medical profession. Here they are; relative to doctors, chiropractors are:
- 2x more likely to be involved in malpractice,
- 9x more likely to be practising fraud,
- 2x more likely to transgress sexual boundaries.
The frequency of fraud is particularly striking. Come to think of it, however, it is not all that amazing. I have said it before: chiropractic is in my view mostly about money.
It has been reported that B.C.’s chiropractors are deeply divided about the future of their profession, disagreeing on everything from false advertising to the use of routine X-rays.
Chiropractors attending an extraordinary general meeting of the College of Chiropractors of B.C. were split nearly down the middle on a series of non-binding resolutions addressing actions the College has taken in recent years. By the narrowest of margins, with at most 54% support, the members voted in favor of the college’s moves to limit the use of diagnostic X-rays and ban claims that aren’t supported by scientific evidence. The question that remains is who represents the bulk of the profession in B.C. — chiropractors advocating for what they describe as evidence-based practice targeting the musculoskeletal system, or “vitalists” who argue that chiropractic treatment can help with everything from immunity to brain function.
The modernizers see it as “a deliberate attempt to take over the college by a small group of chiropractors with no respect or knowledge of regulation … funded by organizations out of the province and out of the country,” Victoria chiropractor Clark Konczak told the virtual meeting.
At issue was a series of policies the college introduced in the wake of what Konczak called “the smoothie episode.” He was referring to a video posted on Facebook in 2017 by the then-vice chair of the college’s board, Avtar Jassal, in which he falsely suggested fruit smoothies are better than vaccines at preventing the flu.
Earlier this year, the college introduced amendments that bar chiropractors from performing routine and repeat X-rays, saying radiography is only scientifically supported when there are red flags that something is seriously wrong. The policy change on X-rays was the flashpoint in the long-simmering tension within the profession. A group of chiropractors has filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court, alleging the college is preventing them from providing “safe, ethical, and effective care to their patients.” Their legal action has backing from national and international vitalistic organizations. During the recent meeting, a group of chiropractors argued unsuccessfully for the new X-ray policy to be tossed. Some suggested that chiropractors who don’t perform X-rays as a matter of routine are actually harming their patients. Another extraordinary general meeting has been called for July 20 to vote on resolutions calling for the removal of four college board members.
As I have often pointed out, chiropractic is all about money. The ‘chiro-wars’ have been going on for quite a while now, and they are by no means confined to B. C. or Canada. In a nutshell, they suggest to me that a significant proportion of chiropractors prefer money to progress.
It was recently reported that about one-third of people who had been infected with COVID report suffering from long COVID:
- Some 37% of people experienced at least one symptom lasting 12 weeks or more
- Almost 15% said they had three or more symptoms for at least 12 weeks
- Long-term problems were more common in women, and with increasing age
- Higher weight, smoking, lower incomes, having a chronic illness, and having been hospitalized with Covid were linked to a higher chance of experiencing long-lasting symptoms
- Tiredness was one of the most common symptoms, and in people who were severely ill with Covid, shortness of breath was a dominant long-lasting symptom
These are worrying figures indeed. Common symptoms of ‘long COVID’ include persistent breathlessness, fatigue, and cough; less common symptoms are chest pain, palpitations, neurological and cognitive deficits, rashes, and gastrointestinal dysfunction. Several research papers describe abnormalities confirming pathophysiological damage ranging from abnormal blood tests to organ damage seen on MRI imaging or in postmortem findings.
Yes, there are good reasons to be worried. Yet others might see this situation as an opportunity. One does not need to be clairvoyant to predict that, in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), long-COVID will be the next big thing. Whenever there is a new, common, difficult-to-treat condition, SCAM practitioners and SCAM entrepreneurs fall over themselves claiming that their therapy is the solution. Gwyneth Paltrow’s bizarre was one of the first with her methods of easing long Covid symptoms. The Hollywood star and snake oil saleswoman said she had embarked on a “keto and plant-based” regime on the advice of an alternative medicine doctor. And, of course, it did her a world of good … Gwyneth approves of anything that is alternative.
On Medline, we already find an abundance of articles such as this one:
There is currently no drug or therapy that can cure the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is highly contagious and can be life-threatening in severe cases. Therefore, seeking potential effective therapies is an urgent task. An older female at the Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan, China, with a severe case of COVID-19 with significant shortness of breath and decrease in peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO2), was treated using manual acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine granule formula Fuzheng Rescue Lung with Xuebijing Injection in addition to standard care. The patient’s breath rate, SpO2, heart rate, ratio of neutrophil/lymphocyte (NLR), ratio of monocyte/lymphocyte (MLR), C-reactive protein (CRP), and chest computed tomography were monitored. Acupuncture significantly improved the patient’s breathing function, increased SpO2, and decreased her heart rate. Chinese herbal medicine might make the effect of acupuncture more stable; the use of herbal medicine also seemed to accelerate the absorption of lung infection lesions when its dosage was increased. The combination of acupuncture and herbs decreased NLR from 14.14 to 5.83, MLR from 1.15 to 0.33 and CRP from 15.25 to 6.01 mg/L. These results indicate that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, as adjuvants to standard care, might achieve better results in treating severe cases of COVID-19.
A telephone survey included 495 COVID patients in India. 26% of them said they had people used 161 SCAM products and home remedies during and after COVID infections. More than half of the participants (59.6%) among them had consumed Ayurvedic Kadha. Many respondents consumed more than one SCAM product or home remedy.
A recent review evaluated the effect of SCAM on COVID patients. A total of 14 studies performed on 972 COVID patients were included. The results suggested that different SCAM interventions (acupuncture, Traditional Chinese medicine [TCM], relaxation, Qigong) significantly improved various psychological symptoms (depression, anxiety, stress, sleep quality, negative emotions, quality of life) and physical symptoms (inflammatory factors, physical activity, chest pain, and respiratory function) of COVID patients. The authors concluded that various SCAM interventions have a positive effect on improving the various dimensions of coronavirus disease but since there are few studies in this regard, further studies using different CAM approaches are recommended.
This conclusion is, of course, pure wishful thinking; the available evidence is in fact more than flimsy, and claims of effectiveness are not justified. But will this stop SCAM enthusiasts to make such claims? I fear not. My prediction is that, as this homeopath already indicated, they will see COVID as an opportunity: For homeopathy, shunned during its 200 years of existence by conventional medicine, this outbreak is a key opportunity to show potentially the contribution it can make in treating COVID-19 patients.
COVID-19 vaccines have had expedited reviews without sufficient safety data. We wanted to compare risks and benefits.
Method: We calculated the number needed to vaccinate (NNTV) from a large Israeli field study to prevent one death. We accessed the Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR) database of the European Medicines Agency and of the Dutch National Register (lareb.nl) to extract the number of cases reporting severe side effects and the number of cases
with fatal side effects.
Result: The NNTV is between 200–700 to prevent one case of COVID-19 for the mRNA vaccine marketed by Pfizer, while the NNTV to prevent one death is between 9000 and 50,000 (95% confidence interval), with 16,000 as a point estimate. The number of cases experiencing adverse reactions has been reported to be 700 per 100,000 vaccinations. Currently, we see 16 serious side effects per 100,000 vaccinations, and the number of fatal side effects is at 4.11/100,000 vaccinations. For three deaths prevented by vaccination we have to accept two inflicted by vaccination.
Conclusions: This lack of clear benefit should cause governments to rethink their vaccination policy.
In my post, I pointed out that the analysis was deeply flawed and its conclusion ridiculous. Many other observers agreed, and several editorial board members of the journal, Vaccines, that unbelievably had published this junk resigned. Yesterday, the journal reacted by retracting the paper. Here is their statement:
The journal retracts the article, The Safety of COVID-19 Vaccinations—We Should Rethink the Policy.
Serious concerns were brought to the attention of the publisher regarding misinterpretation of data, leading to incorrect and distorted conclusions.
The article was evaluated by the Editor-in-Chief with the support of several Editorial Board Members. They found that the article contained several errors that fundamentally affect the interpretation of the findings.
These include, but are not limited to:
The data from the Lareb report (https://www.lareb.nl/coronameldingen) in The Netherlands were used to calculate the number of severe and fatal side effects per 100,000 vaccinations. Unfortunately, in the manuscript by Harald Walach et al. these data were incorrectly interpreted which led to erroneous conclusions. The data was presented as being causally related to adverse events by the authors. This is inaccurate. In The Netherlands, healthcare professionals and patients are invited to report suspicions of adverse events that may be associated with vaccination. For this type of reporting a causal relation between the event and the vaccine is not needed, therefore a reported event that occurred after vaccination is not necessarily attributable to vaccination. Thus, reporting of a death following vaccination does not imply that this is a vaccine-related event. There are several other inaccuracies in the paper by Harald Walach et al. one of which is that fatal cases were certified by medical specialists. It should be known that even this false claim does not imply causation, which the authors imply. Further, the authors have called the events ‘effects’ and ‘reactions’ when this is not established, and until causality is established they are ‘events’ that may or may not be caused by exposure to a vaccine. It does not matter what statistics one may apply, this is incorrect and misleading.
The authors were asked to respond to the claims, but were not able to do so satisfactorily. The authors were notified of the retraction and did not agree.
Two questions still remain to be answered:
- Were Walach et al just incompetent or did they wilfully try to mislead us?
- How much nonsense is Walach allowed to publish before he is finally stopped?
Some time ago, we published a systematic review of adverse effects of homeopathic remedies. It prompted a spade of angry letters to the editor essentially claiming that homeopathic are so dilute that they cannot possibly cause problems. But they can! And here is another case in point.
It has been reported that, in Germany, several patients suffered from adverse effects such as visual disturbances and dry mouth after taking a homeopathic atropine remedy purchased from a pharmacy.
A 56-year-old man experienced taste and visual disturbances and drowsiness about 15 minutes after taking 30 drops of a homeopathic solution prepared at the pharmacy. Two further patients also experienced increased symptoms of malaise, slurred speech, dry mouth, hypertension, and dizziness after taking the homeopathic product. In each case, the symptoms improved one to two days after discontinuation of intake. In one case, the effects were observed again after repeated intake.
The pharmacy prepared the homeopathic prescriptions on the prescription of a Heilpraktiker. For this purpose, the pharmacy first diluted an Atropinum sulfuricum D4 dilution in a ratio of 1:10. The diluted solution was then added to three other OTC homeopathics. The proportion of the diluted solution was 50 percent (M/M) in each case.
Laboratory analyses found an increased atropine content of up to a factor of 800 in all the solutions tested. It was determined that the pharmacy’s manufacturing process was not the cause of the problem. The steps taken to produce the homeopathic remedy were demonstrably correct.
Eventually, the company that supplied the atropine solution discovered a mix-up: what was declared to be a D4 dilution was in fact the mother tincture of atropine, i.e. undiluted substance. The pharmacist had therefore used the mother tincture instead of the D4 dilution to prepare the formulations.
The story shows that, unsurprisingly, the quality control of homeopathic remedies can be deficient. When this happens, remedies that should contain nothing suddenly contain something. It is, I think, indisputable that this has the potential to harm patients. And this leads me to the conclusions that:
- homeopathic remedies are dangerous when they contain nothing because they leave illness untreated;
- homeopathic remedies are dangerous when they contain something because they may poison patients.
Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and legal advisor of Donald Trump, is already facing a billion-dollar lawsuit for defamation. He also had his license to practice law revoked by the New York Bar Association for spreading lies about the 2020 election. I therefore can imagine that he needs some cheering up and could do with some good news.
Well, Rudy, here it is!
Giuliani has been given a very special award.
A rogue’s gallery of celebrity hucksters was drawn up who best represent the threat posed by the wholesale rejection of reality. Calling out these infamous purveyors of flimflam and nonsense, the Center for Inquiry asked the public to vote for who was the worst offender.
It could not have been an easy choice, but now the voters have spoken: 41.7 percent of voters chose Giuliani over these other superspreaders of the infodemic:
- Friend to Viruses Robert F. Kennedy Jr.;
- The Human False Flag Alex Jones;
- The Snake Oil Profiteer Gwyneth Paltrow;
- Holy Hypocrite Jerry Falwell Jr.;
- The Mendacious Medium Thomas John.
Why Giuliani? He really gave his all to rise above the field over the past year as a dedicated champion of bogus COVID-19 cures at the peak of a global pandemic and chief spreader of the highly dangerous Big Lie about the 2020 election. “America’s Mayor” no more, Giuliani has slid to the fringes of conspiracy theories and quack medicine, truly embodying what it takes to be an all-around Full of Bull champion.
At the time of reporting, no reaction of the awardee was available. Yet, we can be confident that Rudy will treasure the award above all other distinctions and that he will display it prominently in his office. The Center for Inquiry wants to thank everyone for voting and for being a part of the reality-based community, it intends to remain committed to taking on bull artists of all stripes.