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

musculoskeletal problems

1 2 3 6
The objective of this study is to evaluate the efficacy of an OMT intervention for reducing pain and disability in patients with chronic low back pain (LBP). It was designed as a single-blinded, crossover, randomized trial (RCT) and conducted at a university-based health system. Participants were adults, 21–65 years old, with non-specific LBP. Eligible participants (n=80) were randomized to two trial arms:
  • an immediate osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) intervention group,
  • a delayed OMT (waiting period) group.

The intervention consisted of three to four OMT sessions over 4–6 weeks, after which the participants switched (crossed-over) groups. The OMT techniques included a mandatory HVLA thrust technique to the lumbar spine region and any (or none) combination of the following four techniques: (i) soft tissue, (ii) muscle energy, (iii) myofascial, and (iv) articulatory. For patients who could not tolerate the HVLA treatment, a physician had to attempt this technique, minimally by attempting to place the patient in the position to perform this maneuver.

The primary clinical outcomes were average pain, current pain, Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) 29 v1.0 pain interference and physical function, and modified Oswestry Disability Index (ODI). Secondary outcomes included the remaining PROMIS health domains and the Fear Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire (FABQ). These measures were taken at baseline (T0), after one OMT session (T1), at the crossover point (T2), and at the end of the trial (T3). Due to the carryover effects of OMT intervention, only the outcomes obtained prior to T2 were evaluated utilizing mixed-effects models and after adjusting for baseline values.

Totals of 35 and 36 participants with chronic LBP were available for the analysis at T1 in the immediate OMT and waiting period groups, respectively, whereas 31 and 33 participants were available for the analysis at T2 in the immediate OMT and waiting period groups, respectively.
After one session of OMT (T1), the analysis showed a significant reduction in the secondary outcomes of sleep disturbance and anxiety compared to the waiting period group. Following the entire intervention period (T2), the immediate OMT group demonstrated a significantly better average pain outcome. The effect size was a 0.8 standard deviation (SD), rendering the reduction in pain clinically significant. Further, the improvement in anxiety remained statistically significant. No study-related serious adverse events (AEs) were reported.
The authors concluded that OMT intervention is safe and effective in reducing pain along with improving sleep and anxiety profiles in patients with chronic LBP.The authors stared their abstract by stating that “the evidence for the efficacy of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) in the management of low back pain (LBP) is considered weak … because it is generally based on low-quality studies.” This is undoubtedly true – but why then did they add one more low-quality study?, I ask myself. To mention just some of the most obvious flaws:

  • This study is far too small to allow conclusions about safety.
  • The trial compared OMT with no therapy; it is likely that the observed outcomes have little to do with OMT but are due to a placebo response.
  • The primary outcome measure showed no effect which essentially means that the study finding was that OMT is ineffective.

My conclusion:

a poor study conducted by wishful thinkers.

 

The WHO has just released guidelines for non-surgical management of chronic primary low back pain (CPLBP). The guideline considers 37 types of interventions across five intervention classes. With the guidelines, WHO recommends non-surgical interventions to help people experiencing CPLBP. These interventions include:

  • education programs that support knowledge and self-care strategies;
  • exercise programs;
  • some physical therapies, such as spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) and massage;
  • psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy; and
  • medicines, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines.

The guidelines also outline 14 interventions that are not recommended for most people in most contexts. These interventions should not be routinely offered, as WHO evaluation of the available evidence indicate that potential harms likely outweigh the benefits. WHO advises against interventions such as:

  • lumbar braces, belts and/or supports;
  • some physical therapies, such as traction;
  • and some medicines, such as opioid pain killers, which can be associated with overdose and dependence.

As you probably guessed, I am particularly intrigued by the WHO’s positive recommendation for SMT. Here is what the guideline tells us about this specific topic:

Considering all adults, the guideline development group (GDG) judged overall net benefits [of spinal manipulation] across outcomes to range from trivial to moderate while, for older people the benefit was judged to be largely uncertain given the few trials and uncertainty of evidence in this group. Overall, harms were judged to be trivial to small for all adults and uncertain for older people due to lack of evidence.

The GDG commented that while rare, serious adverse events might occur with SMT, particularly in older people (e.g. fragility fracture in people with bone loss), and highlighted that appropriate training and clinical vigilance concerning potential harms are important. The GDG also acknowledged that rare serious adverse events were unlikely to be detected in trials. Some GDG members considered that the balance of benefits to harms favoured SMT due to small to moderate benefits while others felt the balance did not favour SMT, mainly due to the very low certainty evidence for some of the observed benefits.

The GDG judged the overall certainty of evidence to be very low for all adults, and very low for older people, consistent with the systematic review team’s assessment. The GDG judged that there was likely to be important uncertainty or variability among people with CPLBP with respect to their values and preferences, with GDG members noting that some people might prefer manual
therapies such as SMT, due to its “hands-on” nature, while others might not prefer such an approach.

Based on their experience and the evidence presented from the included trials which offered an average of eight treatment sessions, the GDG judged that SMT was likely to be associated with moderate costs, while acknowledging that such costs and the equity impacts from out-of-pocket costs would vary by setting.

The GDG noted that the cost-effectiveness of SMT might not be favourable when patients do not experience symptom improvements early in the treatment course. The GDG judged that in most settings, delivery of SMT would be feasible, although its acceptability was likely to vary across
health workers and people with CPLBP.

The GDG reached a consensus conditional recommendation in favour of SMT on the basis of small to moderate benefits for critical outcomes, predominantly pain and function, and the likelihood of rare adverse events.

The GDG concluded by consensus that the likely short-term benefits outweighed potential harms, and that delivery was feasible in most settings. The conditional nature of the recommendation was informed by variability in acceptability, possible moderate costs, and concerns that equity might be negatively impacted in a user-pays model of financing.

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This clearly is not a glowing endorsement or recommendation of SMT. Yet, in my view, it is still too positive. In particular, the assessment of harm is woefully deficient. Looking into the finer details, we find how the GDG assessed harms:

WHO commissioned quantitative systematic evidence syntheses of randomized controlled
trials (RCTs) to evaluate the benefits and harms (as reported in included trials) of each of the
prioritized interventions compared with no care (including trials where the effect of an
intervention could be isolated), placebo or usual care for each of the critical outcomes (refer to Table 2 for the PICO criteria for selecting evidence). Research designs other than RCTs
were not considered.

That explains a lot!

It is not possible to establish the harms of SMT (or any other therapy) on the basis of just a few RCTs, particularly because the RCTs in question often fail to report adverse events. I can be sure of this phenomenon because we investigated it via a systematic review:

Objective: To systematically review the reporting of adverse effects in clinical trials of chiropractic manipulation.

Data sources: Six databases were searched from 2000 to July 2011. Randomised clinical trials (RCTs) were considered, if they tested chiropractic manipulations against any control intervention in human patients suffering from any type of clinical condition. The selection of studies, data extraction, and validation were performed independently by two reviewers.

Results: Sixty RCTs had been published. Twenty-nine RCTs did not mention adverse effects at all. Sixteen RCTs reported that no adverse effects had occurred. Complete information on incidence, severity, duration, frequency and method of reporting of adverse effects was included in only one RCT. Conflicts of interests were not mentioned by the majority of authors.

Conclusions: Adverse effects are poorly reported in recent RCTs of chiropractic manipulations.

The GDG did not cite our review (or any other of our articles on the subject) but, as it was published in a very well-known journal, they must have been aware of it. I am afraid that this wilfull ignorance caused the WHO guideline to underestimate the level of harm of SMT. As there is no post-marketing surveillance system for SMT, a realistic assessment of the harm is far from easy and needs to include a carefully weighted summary of all the published reports (such as this one).

The GDG seems to have been aware of (some of) these problems, yet they ignored them and simply assumed (based on wishful thinking?) that the harms were small or trivial.

Why?

Even the most cursory look at the composition of the GDG, begs the question: could it be that the GDG was highjacked by chiropractors and other experts biased towards SMT?

The more I think of it, the more I feel that this might actually be the case. One committee even listed an expert, Scott Haldeman, as a ‘neurologist’ without disclosing that he foremost is a chiropractor who, for most of his professional life, has promoted SMT in one form or another.

Altogether, the WHO guideline is, in my view, a shameful example of pro-chiropractic bias and an unethical disservice to evidence-based medicine.

 

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:

  1. randomized trials,
  2. had at least one conservative treatment arm,
  3. 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:

  • acupuncture,
  • prednisolone,
  • 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.

I agree!

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?

  • Acupuncture?
  • Prednisolone?
  • 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.

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.

 

The ‘University College of Osteopathy’ announced a proposal to merge with the AECC University College (AECC UC).  Both institutions will seek to bring together the two specialist providers to offer a “unique inter-disciplinary environment for education, clinical practice and research in osteopathy, chiropractic, and across a wide range of allied health and related disciplines”.

The partnership is allegedly set to unlock significant opportunities for growth and development by bringing together the two specialist institutions’ expertise and resources across two locations – in Dorset and central London.

As a joint statement, Chair of the Board of Governors at AECC UC, Jeni Bremner and Chair of the Board of Governors at UCO, Professor Jo Price commented:

“We believe the proposed merger would further the institutional ambitions for both of our organisations and the related professional groups, by allowing us to expand our educational offering, grow student numbers and provide a unique inter-disciplinary training environment, providing students the opportunity to be immersed in multi-professional practice and research, with exposure to and participation in multi-disciplinary teams.

“There is also an exciting and compelling opportunity to expedite the development of a nationally unique, and internationally-leading MSK Centre of Excellence for Education and Research, developed and delivered across our two sites.”

The announcement is accompanied by further uncritical and promotional language:

Established as the first chiropractic training provider in Europe, AECC UC has been at the forefront of evidence-based chiropractic education, practice and research for more than 50 years. The institution is on an exciting journey of growth and development, having expanded and diversified its academic portfolio and activity beyond its traditional core offering of chiropractic across a broad range of allied health courses and apprenticeships, working closely with NHS, local authority and other system partners across Dorset and the south-west. The proposed merger with UCO would allow AECC UC to enhance the breadth and depth of its offer to support the expansion and development of the health and care workforce across a wider range of partners.

Now in its 106th year, UCO is one of the UK’s leading providers of osteopathic education and research with an established reputation for creating highly-skilled, evidence-informed graduates. UCO research is recognised as world-leading, delivering value to the osteopathic and wider health care community.

Sharon Potter, Acting Vice-Chancellor of UCO, said:

“As an institution that has long been at the forefront of osteopathic education and research, we are committed to ensuring further growth and development of the osteopathic profession.

“UCO has been proactively considering options to future-proof the institution. Following a review of strategic options, UCO is delighted by the proposed merger, working closely with AECC UC to ensure that UCO and osteopathy thrives as part of the inter-professional health sciences landscape, both academically and clinically. There is significant congruence between UCO and AECC UC in our strong aligned values, commitment to and delivery of excellent osteopathic education, clinical care and research, and opinion leadership.

“AECC UC has a strong track record of respecting the differences in professions, evidenced by the autonomy across the 10 different professional groups supported by the institution. The merger will not only mean we are protecting UCO through preserving its osteopathic heritage and creating a sustainable future, but that our staff and students can collaborate with other professional groups such as physiotherapy, chiropractic, sport rehabilitation, podiatry and diagnostic imaging, in a multidisciplinary MSK and rehabilitation environment unlike anywhere else in the UK.”

Professor Lesley Haig, Vice-Chancellor of AECC UC, commented:

“Preserving the heritage of UCO and safeguarding its future status as the flagship osteopathy training provider in the UK will be critical, just as it has been to protect the chiropractic heritage of the AECC brand. UCO is seen as synonymous with, and reflective of, the success of the osteopathy profession and we fully recognise and respect the important role that UCO plays not only as a sector-leading provider of osteopathic education, research and clinical care, but as the UK’s flagship osteopathy educational provider.

“Overall it is clear that UCO and AECC UC already have a common values base, similar understanding of approaches to academic and clinical delivery, and positive relationships upon which a future organisational structure and opportunities can be developed. It’s an exciting time for both institutions as we move forward in partnership to create something unique and become recognised nationally and internationally as a centre of excellence.”

The proposed merger would continue the already founded positive relations between the institutions, where regular visits, sharing of good practice, and collaborative research work are already taking place. Heads of terms for the potential merger have now been agreed and both institutions are entering into the next phase of discussions, which will include wide consultation with staff, students and other stakeholders to produce a comprehensive implementation plan.

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In case this bonanza of platitudes and half-truths has not yet overwhelmed you,  I might be so bold as to ask 10 critical questions:

  1. What is an “evidence-based chiropractic education”? Does it include the messages that 1) subluxation is nonsense, 2) chiropractic manipulations can cause harm, 3) there is little evidence that they do more good than harm?
  2. How  an an “expansion and development of the health and care workforce” be anticipated on the basis of the 3 points I just made?
  3. What does the term “evidence-informed graduates” mean? Does it mean they are informed that you teach them nonsense but instruct them to practice this nonsense anyway?
  4. Do “options to future-proof the institution” include the continuation of misleading the public about the value of chiropractic/osteopathy?
  5. Does the”delivery of excellent osteopathic education, clinical care and research, and opinion leadership” account for the fact that the evidence for osteopathy is weak at best and for most conditions negative?
  6. By “preserving its osteopathic heritage”, do you intend to preserve also the reputation of your founding father, Andrew Taylor Still, who did many dubious things. In 1874, for instance, he was excommunicated by the Methodist Church because of his “laying on of hands”; specifically, he was accused of trying to emulate Jesus Christ, labelled an agent of the Devil, and condemned as practicing voodoo. Or do you prefer to white-wash the osteopathic heritage?
  7. You also want “to protect the chiropractic heritage”; does that mean you aim at white-washing the juicy biography of the charlatan who created chiropractic, DD Palmer, as well?
  8. “UCO and AECC UC already have a common values base” – what are they? As far as I can see, they mainly consist in hiding the truth about the uselessness of your activities from the public.
  9. How do you want to “recognised nationally and internationally as a centre of excellence”? Might it be a good idea to begin by critically assessing your interventions and ask whether they do more good than harm?
  10. Crucially, what is really behing the merger that you are trying to sell us with such concentrated BS?

This study aimed to compare the effects of cognitive functional therapy (CFT) and movement system impairment (MSI)-based treatment on pain intensity, disability, Kinesiophobia, and gait kinetics in patients with chronic non-specific low back pain (CNSLBP).

In a single-blind randomized clinical trial, the researchers randomly assigned 91 patients with CNSLBP into CFT (n = 45) and MSI-based treatment (n = 46) groups. An 8-week training intervention was given to both groups. The researchers measured the primary outcome, which was pain intensity (Numeric rating scale), and the secondary outcomes, including disability (Oswestry disability index), Kinesiophobia (Tampa Kinesiophobia Scale), and vertical ground reaction force (VGRF) parameters at self-selected and faster speed (Force distributor treadmill). They evaluated patients at baseline, at the end of the 8-week intervention (post-treatment), and six months after the first treatment. Mixed-model ANOVA was used to evaluate the effects of the interaction between time (baseline vs. post-treatment vs. six-month follow-up) and group (CFT vs. MSI-based treatment) on each measure.

CFT showed superiority over MSI-based treatment in reducing pain intensity (P < 0.001, Effect size (ES) = 2.41), ODI (P < 0.001, ES = 2.15), and Kinesiophobia (P < 0.001, ES = 2.47) at eight weeks. The CFT also produced greater improvement in VGRF parameters, at both self-selected (FPF[P < 0.001, ES = 3], SPF[P < 0.001, ES = 0.5], MSF[P < 0.001, ES = 0.67], WAR[P < 0.001, ES = 1.53], POR[P < 0.001, ES = 0.8]), and faster speed, FPF(P < 0.001, ES = 1.33, MSF(P < 0.001, ES = 0.57), WAR(P < 0.001, ES = 0.67), POR(P < 0.001, ES = 2.91)] than the MSI, except SPF(P < 0.001, ES = 0.0) at eight weeks.

The authors concluded that this study suggests that the CFT is associated with better results in clinical and cognitive characteristics than the MSI-based treatment for CNSLBP, and the researchers maintained the treatment effects at six-month follow-up. Also, This study achieved better improvements in gait kinetics in CFT. CTF seems to be an appropriate and applicable treatment in clinical setting.

To understand this  study, we need to know what CFT and MSI exactly entailed. Here is the information that the authors provide:

Movement system impairment-based treatment

The movement system impairment-based treatment group received 11 sessions of MSI-based treatment over the 8 weeks for 60 min per session with a supervision of a native speaker experienced (above 5 years) physical therapist with the knowledge of MSI-based treatment. The researchers designed the MSI-based treatment uniquely for each patient based on the interview, clinical examination, and questionnaires, just like they did with the CFT intervention. First, they administered standardized tests to characterize changes in the patient’s low back pain symptoms, and then they modified the treatment to make it more specific based on the participant’s individual symptoms. Depending on the participant’s direction-specific low back pain classification, they performed the intervention following one of the five MSI subgroups namely [1] rotation, [2] extension, [3] flexion, [4] rotation with extension, and [5] rotation with flexion. Finally, Patients treated using the standardized MSI protocol as follows: [1] education regarding normal postures and movements such as sitting, walking, bending, standing, and lying down; [2] education regarding exercises to perform trunk movements as painlessly as possible; and [3] prescription of functional exercises to improve trunk movement [32].

Cognitive functional therapy

Cognitive functional therapy was prescribed for each patient in CFT group based the CFT protocol conducted by O’Sullivan et al. (2015). Patients received supervised 12 sessions of training over the 8-week period with 60 min per session provided with another physical therapist who had been trained in CFT treatment. In this protocol, a physical therapist with more than 5 years of experience conducted an interview and physical examination of the patients to determine their own unique training programs, considering modifiable cognitive, biopsychosocial, functional, and lifestyle behavior factors. The intervention consists of the following 3 main stages: [1] making sense of pain that is completely reflective, where physical therapist could use the context of the patient’s own story to provide a new understanding of their condition and question their old beliefs [2] exposure with control which is designed to normalize maladaptive or provocative movement and posture related to activities of daily living that is integrated into each patient’s functional impairments, including teaching how to relax trunk muscles, how to have normal body posture while sitting, lying, bending, lifting, moving, and standing, and how to avoid pain behaviors, which aims to break poor postural habits; and [3] lifestyle change which is investigating the influence of unhealthy lifestyles in the patient’s pain context. Assessing the individual’s body mass, nutrition, quality of sleep, levels of physical activity or sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and other factors via video calls. Identifying such lifestyle factors helped us to individually advise and design exercise programs, rebuild self-confidence and self-efficacy, promote changes in lifestyle, and design coping strategies.

I must admit that I am not fully convinced.

Firstly, the study was not large and we need – as the authors state – more evidence. Secondly, I am not sure that the results show  CFT to be more effective that MSI. They might merely indicate 1) that the bulk of the improvement is due to non-specific effects (e.g. reression towards the mean, natural history of the condition, placebo) and 2) that CFT is less harmful than MSI.

My conclusion:

we need not just more but better evidence.

This systematic review and meta-analysis assessed the effectiveness of visceral osteopathy in improving pain intensity, disability and physical function in patients with low-back pain (LBP).

MEDLINE (Pubmed), PEDro, SCOPUS, Cochrane Library and Web of Science databases were searched from inception to February 2022. PICO search strategy was used to identify randomized clinical trials applying visceral techniques in patients with LBP. Eligible studies and data extraction were conducted independently by two reviewers. Quality of the studies was assessed with the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale, and the risk of bias with Cochrane Collaboration tool. Meta-analyses were conducted using random effects models according to heterogeneity assessed with I2 coefficient. Data on outcomes of interest were extracted by a researcher using RevMan 5.4 software.

Five studies were included in the systematic review involving 268 patients with LBP. The methodological quality of the included ranged from high to low and the risk of bias was high. Visceral osteopathy techniques have shown no improvements in pain intensity (Standardized mean difference (SMD) = -0.53; 95% CI; -1.09, 0.03; I2: 78%), disability (SMD = -0.08; 95% CI; -0.44, 0.27; I2: 0%) and physical function (SMD = -0.26; 95% CI; -0.62, 0.10; I2: 0%) in patients with LBP.

The authors concluded that this systematic review and meta-analysis showed a lack of high-quality studies showing the effectiveness of visceral osteopathy in pain, disability, and physical function in patients with LBP.

Visceral osteopathy (or visceral manipulation) is an expansion of the general principles of osteopathy and involves the manual manipulation by a therapist of internal organs, blood vessels and nerves (the viscera) from outside the body.

Visceral osteopathy was developed by Jean-Piere Barral, a registered Osteopath and Physical Therapist who serves as Director (and faculty) of the Department of Osteopathic Manipulation in Paris, France. He stated that through his clinical work with thousands of patients, he created this modality based on organ-specific fascial mobilization. And through work in a dissection lab, he was able to experiment with visceral manipulation techniques and see the internal effects of the manipulations.[1]  According to its proponents, visceral manipulation is based on the specific placement of soft manual forces looking to encourage the normal mobility, tone and motion of the viscera and their connective tissues. These gentle manipulations may potentially improve the functioning of individual organs, the systems the organs function within, and the structural integrity of the entire body.[2] Visceral osteopathy comprises of several different manual techniques firstly for diagnosing a health problem and secondly for treating it.

Several studies have assessed the diagnostic reliability of the techniques involved. The totality of this evidence fails to show that they are sufficiently reliable to be od practical use.[3] Other studies have tested whether the therapeutic techniques used in visceral osteopathy are effective in curing disease or alleviating symptoms. The totality of this evidence fails to show that visceral osteopathy works for any condition.[4] 

The treatment itself seems to be safe, yet the risks of visceral osteopathy are nevertheless considerable: if a patient suffers from symptoms related to her inner organs, the therapist is likely to misdiagnose them and subsequently mistreat them. If the symptoms are due to a serious disease, this would amount to medical neglect and could, in extreme cases, cost the patient’s life.

My bottom line: if you see visceral osteopathy being employed anywhere, turn araound and seek proper healthcare whatever your illness might be.

References

[1]  https://www.barralinstitute.com/about/jean-pierre-barral.php .

[2]  http://www.barralinstitute.co.uk/ .

[3] Guillaud A, Darbois N, Monvoisin R, Pinsault N (2018) Reliability of diagnosis and clinical efficacy of visceral osteopathy: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med 18:65

[4]  http://www.barralinstitute.co.uk/ .

An impressive article by John Mac Ghlionn caught my attention. Allow me to quote a few passages from it:

The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate recently reintroduced legislation to increase access to Medicare-covered services provided by chiropractors. Last year, the US chiropractic market size was worth $13.13 Billion. By the end of the decade, it will be worth over $18 billion. Each year, a whopping 35 million Americans seek chiropractic care.

But why? It’s a questionable science full of questionable characters.

Last year, a Georgia woman was left paralyzed and unable to speak after receiving a neck adjustment from a chiropractor. She’s not the first person to have had her life utterly ruined by a chiropractor, and chances are she won’t be the last. Many patients who visit chiropractors suffer severe side effects; some lose their lives

As Dr. Steven Novella has noted, what used to be fraud is now known as holistic medicine. Dr. Edzard Ernst, a retired British-German physician and researcher, has expertly demonstrated the many ways in which chiropractic treatments are rooted not in science, but in mystical concepts…

Spinal adjustments, also known as “subluxations,” are also common. A dangerous practice that has been heavily criticized, spinal manipulations are associated with a number of adverse effects, including the risk of stroke. As Dr. Ernst has noted, the cost-effectiveness of this particular treatment “has not been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt.”

Not content with spinal and neck manipulations, some chiropractors offer to treat other conditions — like diabetes, for example. They are not trained to treat diabetes. Other chiropractors appear to take joy in torturing infants. In August of 2018, a chiropractor made headlines for all the wrong reasons when a video emerged showing him hanging a two-week-old newborn upside down by the ankles

Finally, as I alluded to earlier, the chiropractic community is full of fraudsters. In 2019, in the US, 15 chiropractors were charged in an insurance fraud and illegal kickback operation. More recently, in February of this year, a New York federal judge sentenced Patrick Khaziran to 30 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to being part of a widespread scheme that defrauded the NBA out of at least $5 million. In recent times, the chiropractic community has come under scrutiny for abusive care and illegal billing practices. When it comes to instances of healthcare fraud, chiropractic medicine is unrivaled.

None of this should come as a surprise. After all, the entire chiropractic community was constructed on a foundation of lies. As the aforementioned Dr. Ernst told me, we should be skeptical of what chiropractors are offering, largely because the whole practice was founded “by a deluded charlatan, who insisted that all human diseases are due to subluxations of the spine. Today, we know that chiropractic subluxations are mere figments of Palmer’s imagination. Yet, the chiropractic profession is unable to separate itself from the myth. It is easy to see why: without it, they would at best become poorly trained physiotherapists without any raison d’etre.”

… Dr. William T. Jarvis famously referred to chiropractic as “the most significant nonscientific health-care delivery system in the United States.” Comparing the chiropractic community to a cult, Dr. Jarvis wondered, somewhat incredulously, why chiropractors are licensed to practice in all 50 US states. The entire profession, he warned, “should be viewed as a societal problem, not simply as a competitor of regular health-care.”

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In my view, this is an impressive article, not least because it is refreshingly devoid of the phenomenon known as ‘false balance, e.g. a chiropractor being invited to add his self-interested views at the end of the paper claiming, for instance, “we have years of experience and cause far less harm than real doctors”.

There is widespread agreement amongst clinicians that people with non-specific low back pain (NSLBP) comprise a heterogeneous group and that their management should be individually tailored. One treatment known by its tailored design is the McKenzie method (e.g. an individualized program of exercises based on clinical clues observed during assessment) used mostly but not exclusively by physiotherapists.

A recent Cochrane review evaluated the effectiveness of the McKenzie method in people with (sub)acute non-specific low back pain. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) investigating the effectiveness of the McKenzie method in adults with (sub)acute (less than 12 weeks) NSLBP.

Five RCTs were included with a total of 563 participants recruited from primary or tertiary care. Three trials were conducted in the USA, one in Australia, and one in Scotland. Three trials received financial support from non-commercial funders and two did not provide information on funding sources. All trials were at high risk of performance and detection bias. None of the included trials measured adverse events.

McKenzie method versus minimal intervention (educational booklet; McKenzie method as a supplement to other intervention – main comparison) There is low-certainty evidence that the McKenzie method may result in a slight reduction in pain in the short term (MD -7.3, 95% CI -12.0 to -2.56; 2 trials, 377 participants) but not in the intermediate term (MD -5.0, 95% CI -14.3 to 4.3; 1 trial, 180 participants). There is low-certainty evidence that the McKenzie method may not reduce disability in the short term (MD -2.5, 95% CI -7.5 to 2.0; 2 trials, 328 participants) nor in the intermediate term (MD -0.9, 95% CI -7.3 to 5.6; 1 trial, 180 participants).

McKenzie method versus manual therapy There is low-certainty evidence that the McKenzie method may not reduce pain in the short term (MD -8.7, 95% CI -27.4 to 10.0; 3 trials, 298 participants) and may result in a slight increase in pain in the intermediate term (MD 7.0, 95% CI 0.7 to 13.3; 1 trial, 235 participants). There is low-certainty evidence that the McKenzie method may not reduce disability in the short term (MD -5.0, 95% CI -15.0 to 5.0; 3 trials, 298 participants) nor in the intermediate term (MD 4.3, 95% CI -0.7 to 9.3; 1 trial, 235 participants).

McKenzie method versus other interventions (massage and advice) There is very low-certainty evidence that the McKenzie method may not reduce disability in the short term (MD 4.0, 95% CI -15.4 to 23.4; 1 trial, 30 participants) nor in the intermediate term (MD 10.0, 95% CI -8.9 to 28.9; 1 trial, 30 participants).

The authors concluded that, based on low- to very low-certainty evidence, the treatment effects for pain and disability found in our review were not clinically important. Thus, we can conclude that the McKenzie method is not an effective treatment for (sub)acute NSLBP.

 The hallmark of the McKenzie method for back pain involves the identification and classification of nonspecific spinal pain into homogenous subgroups. These subgroups are based on the similar responses of a patient’s symptoms when subjected to mechanical forces. The subgroups include postural syndrome, dysfunction syndrome, derangement syndrome, or “other,” with treatment plans directed to each subgroup. The McKenzie method emphasizes the centralization phenomenon in the assessment and treatment of spinal pain, in which pain originating from the spine refers distally, and through targeted repetitive movements the pain migrates back toward the spine. The clinician will then use the information obtained from this assessment to prescribe specific exercises and advise on which postures to adopt or avoid. Through an individualized treatment program, the patient will perform specific exercises at home approximately ten times per day, as opposed to 1 or 2 physical therapy visits per week. According to the McKenzie method, if there is no restoration of normal function, tissue healing will not occur, and the problem will persist.

Classification:

The postural syndrome is pain caused by mechanical deformation of soft tissue or vasculature arising from prolonged postural stresses. These may affect the joint surfaces, muscles, or tendons, and can occur in sitting, standing, or lying. Pain may be reproducible when such individuals maintain positions or postures for sustained periods. Repeated movements should not affect symptoms, and relief of pain typically occurs immediately following the correction of abnormal posture.

The dysfunction syndrome is pain caused by the mechanical deformation of structurally impaired soft tissue; this may be due to traumatic, inflammatory, or degenerative processes, causing tissue contraction, scarring, adhesion, or adaptive shortening. The hallmark is a loss of movement and pain at the end range of motion. Dysfunction has subsyndromes based upon the end-range direction that elicits this pain: flexion, extension, side-glide, multidirectional, adherent nerve root, and nerve root entrapment subsyndromes. Successful treatment focuses on patient education and mobilization exercises that focus on the direction of the dysfunction/direction of pain. The goal is on tissue remodeling which can be a prolonged process.

The derangement syndrome is the most commonly encountered pain syndrome, reported in one study to have a prevalence as high as 78% of patients classified by the McKenzie method. It is caused by an internal dislocation of articular tissue, causing a disturbance in the normal position of affected joint surfaces, deforming the capsule, and periarticular supportive ligaments. This derangement will both generate pain and obstruct movement in the direction of the displacement. There are seven different subsyndromes which are classified by the location of pain and the presence, or absence, of deformities. Pain is typically elicited by provocative assessment movements, such as flexion or extension of the spine. The centralization and peripheralization of symptoms can only occur in the derangement syndrome. Thus the treatment for derangement syndrome focuses on repeated movement in a single direction that causes a gradual reduction in pain. Studies have shown approximately anywhere between 58% to 91% prevalence of centralization of lower back pain. Studies have also shown that between 67% to 85% of centralizers displayed the directional preference for a spinal extension. This preference may partially explain why the McKenzie method has become synonymous with spinal extension exercises. However, care must be taken to accurately diagnose the direction of pain, as one randomized controlled study has shown that giving the ‘wrong’ direction of exercises can actually lead to poorer outcomes.

Other or Nonmechanical syndrome refers to any symptom that does not fit in with the other mechanical syndromes, but exhibits signs and symptoms of other known pathology; Some of these examples include spinal stenosis, sacroiliac disorders, hip disorders, zygapophyseal disorders, post-surgical complications, low back pain secondary to pregnancy, spondylolysis, and spondylolisthesis.

CONCLUSION:

“Internationally researched” and found to be ineffective!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I REST MY CASE

 

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