Cervical radiculopathy is a common condition that is usually due to compression or injury to a nerve root by a herniated disc or other degenerative changes of the upper spine. The C5 to T1 levels are the most commonly affected. In such cases local and radiating pains, often with neurological deficits, are the most prominent symptoms. Treatment of this condition is often difficult.
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).
MEDLINE, CENTRAL, CINAHL, Embase, and PsycINFO were searched from inception to June 15, 2022, to identify studies that were randomized clinical trials, had at least one conservative treatment arm, and 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 our inclusion criteria (n = 4108 participants). Due to clinical and statistical heterogeneity, the findings were synthesized narratively. The results show 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 and 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.
The fact that we cannot offer a truly effective therapy for CR has long been known – except, of course, to chiropractors, acupuncturists, osteopaths, and other SCAM providers who offer their services as though they are a sure solution. Sometimes, their treatments seem to work; but this could be just because the symptoms of CR can improve spontaneously, unrelated to any intervention.
The question thus arises what should these often badly suffering patients do if spontaneous remission does not occur? As an answer, let me quote from another recent systematic review of the subject: The 6 included studies that had low risk of bias, providing high-quality evidence for the surgical efficacy of Cervical Spondylotic Radiculopathy. The evidence indicates that surgical treatment is better than conservative treatment … and superior to conservative treatment in less than one year.
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) belongs to the coffee family. It’s found in Southeast Asia and Africa. Traditionally, people have:
- Chewed kratom leaves.
- Made kratom tea to fight tiredness and improve productivity.
- Used kratom as medicine.
- Substituted kratom for opium.
- Used kratom during religious ceremonies.
Low doses of kratom can make you more alert, and higher doses can cause:
- Decreased pain.
The mechanism of action seems to be that two of the compounds in kratom (mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine) interact with opioid receptors in your brain.
Kratom is thus being promoted as a pain remedy that is safer than traditional opioids, an effective addiction withdrawal aid, and a pleasurable recreational tonic. But kratom is, in fact, a dangerous and unregulated drug that can be purchased on the Internet, a habit-forming substance that authorities say can result in opioid-like abuse and death.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that kratom possesses the properties of an opioid, thus escalating the government’s effort to slow the usage of this alternative pain reliever. The FDA stated that the number of deaths associated with kratom use has increased. Now further concerns have emerged.
This review enumerates seven outbreaks of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) product adulteration and contamination in the context of the United States Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).
At least seven distinct episodes of kratom product contamination or adulteration are known:
- (1) krypton, a kratom product adulterated with O-desmethyltramadol that resulted in at least nine fatal poisonings;
- (2) a suspected case of kratom contamination with hydrocodone and morphine;
- (3) a case of kratom adulteration with phenylethylamine;
- (4) contamination of multiple kratom products with heavy metals;
- (5) contamination of kratom products by multiple Salmonella enterica serotypes;
- (6) exposure of federal agents raiding a synthetic cannabinoid laboratory to kratom alkaloids;
- (7) suspected kratom product adulteration with exogenous 7-hydroxymitragynine.
The authors concluded that inadequate supplement regulation contributed to multiple examples of kratom contamination and adulteration, illustrating the potential for future such episodes involving kratom and other herbal supplements.
This review investigated the characteristics, hotspots, and frontiers of global scientific output in acupuncture research for chronic pain over the past decade. the authors retrieved publications on acupuncture for chronic pain published from 2011 to 2022 from the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-expanded) of the Web of Science Core Collection (WoSCC). The co-occurrence relationships of journals/countries/institutions/authors/keywords were performed using VOSviewer V6.1.2, and CiteSpace V1.6.18 analyzed the clustering and burst analysis of keywords and co-cited references.
A total of 1616 articles were retrieved. The results showed that:
- the number of annual publications on acupuncture for chronic pain has increased over time;
- the main types of literature are original articles (1091 articles, 67.5 %) and review articles (351 articles, 21.7 %);
- China had the most publications (598 articles, 37 %), with Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (93 articles, 5.8 %);
- Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine ranked first (169 articles, 10.45 %) as the most prolific affiliate and journal, respectively;
- Liang FR was the most productive author (43 articles);
- the article published by Vickers Andrew J in 2012 had the highest number of citations (625 citations).
Recently, “acupuncture” and “pain” appeared most frequently. The hot topics in acupuncture for chronic pain based on keywords clustering analysis were experimental design, hot diseases, interventions, and mechanism studies. According to burst analysis, the main research frontiers were functional connectivity (FC), depression, and risk.
The authors concluded that this study provides an in-depth perspective on acupuncture for chronic pain studies, revealing pivotal points, research hotspots, and research trends. Valuable ideas are provided for future research activities.
I might disagree with the authors’ conclusion and would argue that they have demonstrated that:
- the acupuncture literature is dominated by China, which is concerning because we know that 1) these studies are of poor quality, 2) never report negative findings, and 3) are often fabricated;
- the articles tend to be published in journals that are more than a little suspect.
As we have seen recently, the reliable evidence that acupuncture remains effective is wafer-thin. Therefore, I feel that we are currently being misled by a flurry of rubbish publications that have one main aim: to distract from the fact that acupuncture might be nonsense.
I came across an article that seems highly relevant to our recurring debates about the dangers of chiropractic. Since few of us might be readers of the Louisville Courier, I take the liberty of reproducing here a shortened version of it:
Amber Burgess, then 33, had never set foot in a chiropractor’s office when she went to Dr. Adam Fulkerson’s Heartland Family Chiropractic in Elizabethtown on May 18, 2020. In contrast, Becca Barlow, 31, had seen Dr. Leah Wright at Louisville Family Chiropractic 29 times for adjustments over three years when she went there on Jan. 7, 2019, seeking relief for “nursing mother’s neck.” Both say they will never see a chiropractor again. “That visit was my first – and last,” said Burgess, a former utility bucket-truck assembler.
In separate lawsuits, they claim they suffered strokes after chiropractic adjustments; Barlow, herself a nurse, said she realized she was having one before she even left the office and told Wright’s staff to call 911.
Citing studies on human cadavers and other research, chiropractors claim adjustments are physically incapable of causing tears to arteries that in turn cause strokes by blocking the flow of blood to the brain and other organs. In an opening statement in the trial of Barlow’s suit last March, attorney John Floyd Jr., counsel for Wright and the National Chiropractic Mutual Insurance Co., said no one has ever proved adjustments cause the tears – known as dissection – only that there is an “association” between them. “We associate the crowing of roosters with sunrise,” he told the jury. “But that doesn’t mean roosters cause the sun to come up.” Floyd also cited studies he said prove that when a patient strokes out immediately after adjustments, like Barlow, it is because they already were suffering from artery injuries when they sought treatment from their chiropractor.
Louisville attorney Brian Clare, who represents both Barlow and Burgess, previously settled two cases in Jefferson County, and has another suit pending in Warren Circuit Court. He said in an interview that “every time chiropractors perform adjustments on the neck they are playing with fire. They can go too far, too fast, turning the neck past therapeutic limits,” he said.
The jury in Barlow’s case emphatically rejected the chiropractic profession’s defenses. “We found those claims to be unbelievable,” said jury foreman Joseph Tucker, a lawyer, who noted Barlow had no symptoms before her adjustments. By a 9-3 vote, the jury awarded her $1,130,800, including $380,000 in medical expenses and $750,000 for pain and suffering.
Witnesses testified that Barlow fell off the table and vomited almost immediately after her adjustment, showing classic stroke symptoms, including vertigo, dizziness, numbness, and nausea. She lost consciousness, had to be intubated in an ambulance, then raced to Norton Brownsboro Hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery to restore the flow of blood to her arteries and save her life. Three of the four arteries in her neck had been dissected.
Burgess, in Elizabethtown, suffered a stroke in her spine that her expert, Dr. Louis Caplan, a neurology professor at Harvard University, said also was caused by her cervical manipulations. Caplan says he’s cared for more than 15,000 stroke patients over 45 years.
Fulkerson has denied liability; his lawyer, James Grohman, said he couldn’t comment because the case is pending; the trial is set for Aug. 28 in Hardin Circuit Court Caplan said in a report that Burgess’s stroke left her with partial but permanent paralysis in her arms and legs. She uses a wheelchair and walker with wheels to get around. She said she can’t work, can’t drive, and that while she can dress herself, it takes hours to get ready. She fears they will have to give up their plans to have a baby.
By any measure, strokes associated with adjustments are rare, although their incidence is disputed. The American Chiropractic Association says arteries are damaged in only one to three adjustments out of 100,000 But a 2001 report in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated dissections occur in 1 of 20,000 adjustments. And Dr. Alan Brafman, an Atlanta chiropractor, has said they occur more often than that. Brafman wrote that he’s consulted in 1,100 cases, including Barlow’s, and found in most of them, chiropractors were at fault, causing vascular damage that is “a tragic, life-altering situation for all parties involved.” Wright’s experts themselves divulged they had been retained in 200 cases, according to Clare, which he said suggests chiropractic-related strokes are more common than suspected. A survey at Stanford University in 2008 of 177 neurologists found 55 had patients who suffered strokes after seeing chiropractors, while a 2018 study in West Virginia found one in 48 chiropractors experienced such an event. Neurologists and other physicians point to a 2001 study in STROKE of 582 stroke patients that found they were five times more likely to have seen a chiropractor in the previous five days before their artery dissection than a control group without such injuries. The American Heart Association and other medical groups recommend that patients also be warned about the risks; Barlow said she never would have undergone her final manipulation if she had been informed.
Yet again, I am impressed by the number of cases that go to court where a settlement of some sort is reached and further reporting of the incident is prevented. As a consequence, these cases are not published in the medical literature. In turn, this means that chiropractors can continue to claim that these complications do not exist or are exceedingly rare.
- The truth, however, is that NOBODY can provide accurate incidence figures.
- The truth is that, even if such complications were rare, they are devastating.
- The truth is that neck manipulations do not generate any or very little benefit.
- The truth is that their risk/benefit balance is not positive.
- The truth is that we, therefore, have an ethical duty to tell potential patients about it.
I feel that I cannot repeat my warning often enough:
THEY CAUSE MORE HARM THAN GOOD!
If you think that scanning through dozens of new scientific articles every week is a dry and often somewhat tedious exercise, you are probably correct. But every now and then, this task is turned into prime entertainment by some pseudoscientists trying to pretend to be scientists. Take, for instance, the latest homeopathy study by Indian researchers with no less than 9 seemingly impressive affiliations:
- 1Department of Organon of Medicine and Homoeopathic Philosophy, National Institute of Homoeopathy, Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India, Salt Lake, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
- 2Department of Organon of Medicine and Homoeopathic Philosophy, National Institute of Homoeopathy, Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India, Block GE, Sector III, Salt Lake, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
- 3Department of Homoeopathy, State Homoeopathic Dispensary, Karaila, Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India.
- 4Department of Homoeopathy, State Homoeopathic Dispensary, Tulsipur, Shrawasti, Uttar Pradesh, India.
- 5Department of Materia Medica, National Institute of Homoeopathy, Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India, Salt Lake, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
- 6State Homoeopathic Dispensary, Mangalbari Rural Hospital, Matiali Block, Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, under Department of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of West Bengal, India.
- 7Department of Repertory, The Calcutta Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
- 8Department of Homoeopathy, East Bishnupur State Homoeopathic Dispensary, Chandi Daulatabad Block Primary Health Centre, Village and Post Office: Gouripur (South), Police Station Bishnupur, West Bengal, under Department of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of West Bengal, India.
- 9Department of Repertory, D. N. De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
Now that I have whetted your appetite, here is their study:
Lumbar spondylosis (LS) is a degenerative disorder of the lumbar spine. Despite substantial research efforts, no gold-standard treatment for LS has been identified. The efficacy of individualized homeopathic medicines (IHMs) in lumbar spondylosis (LS) is unknown. In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, the efficacy of IHMs was compared with identical-looking placebos in the treatment of low back pain associated with LS. It was conducted at the National Institute of Homoeopathy, West Bengal, India.
Patients were randomized to receive IHMs or placebos; standardized concomitant care was administered in both groups. The Oswestry low back pain and disability questionnaire (ODQ) was used as the primary outcome measure; the Roland-Morris questionnaire (RMQ) and the short form of the McGill pain questionnaire (SF-MPQ) served as secondary outcome measures. They were measured at baseline and every month for 3 months. Intention-to-treat analyses (ITT) were used to detect any inter-group differences using two-way repeated measures analysis of variance models overall and by unpaired t-tests at different time points.
Enrolment was stopped prematurely because of time restrictions; 55 patients had been randomized (verum: 28; control: 27); 49 could be analyzed by ITT (verum: 26; control: 23).
The results are as follows:
- Inter-group differences in ODQ (F 1, 47 = 0.001, p = 0.977), RMQ (F 1, 47 = 0.190, p = 0.665) and SF-MPQ total score (F 1, 47 = 3.183, p = 0.081) at 3 months were not statistically significant.
- SF-MPQ total score after 2 months (p = 0.030) revealed an inter-group statistical significance, favoring IHMs against placebos.
- Some of the SF-MPQ sub-scales at different time points were also statistically significant: e.g., the SF-MPQ average pain score after 2 months (p = 0.002) and 3 months (p = 0.007).
- Rhus Toxicodendron, Sulphur, and Pulsatilla nigricans were the most frequently indicated medicines.
The authors concluded that owing to failure in detecting a statistically significant effect for the primary outcome and in recruiting a sufficient number of participants, our trial remained inconclusive.
Now that I (and hopefully you too) have recovered from laughing out loud, let me point out why this paper had me in stitches:
- The trial was aborted not because of a “time limit” but because of slow recruitment, I presume. The question is why were not more patients volunteering? Low back pain with LS is extremely common. Could it be that patients know only too well that homeopathy does not help with low back pain?
- If a trial gets aborted because of very low patient numbers, it is probably best not to publish it or at least not to evaluate its results at all.
- If the researchers insist on publishing it, their paper should focus on the reason why it did not succeed so that others can learn from their experience by avoiding their mistakes.
- However, once the researchers do run statistical tests, they should be honest and conclude clearly that, because the primary outcome measure showed no inter-group difference, the study failed to demonstrate that the treatment is effective.
- The trial did not “remain inconclusive”; it was squarely negative.
- The editor of the journal HOMEOPATHY should know better than to publish such nonsense.
A final thought: is it perhaps the ultimate proof of homeopathy’s ‘like cures like’ assumption to use sound science (i.e. an RCT), submit it to the homeopathic process of endless dilutions and succussions, and – BINGO – generate utter nonsense?
The McTimoney College of Chiropractic just announced that it has established a new four-year program in veterinary chiropractic for college students:
It means that those without a prior degree can undertake the training and education necessary to enter this coveted career. To date, animal chiropractors were required to have a prior qualification in human chiropractic or a degree in the relevant sciences.
Applications for the new program are being accepted from September 2023. Students will attend Abingdon-based University, Oxford, and a variety of practical locations, enabling the development of academic knowledge and the application of practical skills together . Modules include anatomy and physiology, veterinary science, practice and professionalism, and clinical skills, with a research dissertation running over the four-year course.
University director Christina Cunliffe said the new program was an exciting step in the development of chiropractic care for animals.
“Building on our decades of experience graduating confident, competent, and highly-skilled animal chiropractors, now is the time to open up this exciting career opportunity to college students.”
For the past 50 years, McTimoney College of Chiropractic has been training and educating human chiropractors to the highest regulatory standards. Over the past 20 years, animal chiropractic has developed to meet the requirements for this gentle, holistic treatment in the veterinary world.
Prospective students are invited to a Open House at McTimoney College of Chiropractic in Abingdon on February 16.
McTimoney Chiropractic for Animals identifies areas of stiffness, asymmetry, and poor range of motion within the skeletal system, particularly the spine and pelvis. This affects the muscles that surround these structures, as well as the nerve impulses that pass from the central nervous system to the periphery of the body. The adjustments are very light and fast, stimulating an instant response in the affected soft tissues and joints, promoting relaxation of muscle spasms, improving nerve function, and helping the skeletal structure regain better symmetry and movement again.
In many cases, animals suffer from underlying conditions such as arthritic changes or degenerative diseases that force them to compensate in their posture and movement in an attempt to remain comfortable. However, these offsets become increasingly entrenched and can be painful or uncomfortable, requiring chiropractic care to provide some relief. In other cases, the animals are working hard or competing and as such accumulate tension and asymmetries due to the demands of their work. Once again, chiropractic care helps relieve pain and promote performance, whether it’s faster speeds over hurdles for racehorses and events, better jumping style in showjumpers, or more extravagant movements for dressage stars.
Two recent graduates of the school’s Master of Animal Handling (Chiropractic) program did not hesitate to recommend the university. Natalie McQuiggan said that she had wanted to do McTimoney Chiropractic from a very young age, “but the process of doing it always seemed really daunting.
“But from the start, the staff and teachers were lovely and welcoming, and queries were answered promptly. I have really enjoyed my two years in the Master of Animal Handling (Chiropractic) program and would recommend anyone thinking of doing it to just do it.”
Pollyanna Fitzgerald said the university offered a supportive and welcoming learning environment, allowing her to grow and develop as a student and future professional. “There is always someone to talk to and offer encouragement when needed. As a student I have learned a lot and have been encouraged to believe in myself and it has been a wonderful place to learn.”
A free webinar, McTimoney’s Animal Chiropractic as a Careeron January 24 at 7:30 p.m. (GMT), is open to those who wish to learn more about the McTimoney technique and its application, and the training paths available to those interested in becoming a McTimoney Animal Chiropractor.
I think this announcement is puzzling on several levels:
- I was unable to find an ‘Abingdon-based University, Oxford’; could it be this institution that is a college and not a university?
- Christina Cunliffe seems to be (or has been?) affiliated with the McTimoney College of Chiropractic which is a bit odd, in my opinion.
- The college does not have ‘decades of experience’; it was founded only in 2001.
- Most importantly, I am unable to find a jot of good evidence that veterinary chiropractic is effective for any condition (see also here, here, and here). In case anyone is aware of any, please let me know. I’d be delighted to revise my judgment.
If I am right, the new course could be a fine example of quackademia where students are ripped off and taught to later rip off the owners of animals after the academically trained quacks have mistreated them.
In this study, the impact of a multimodal integrative oncology pre- and intraoperative intervention on pain and anxiety among patients undergoing gynecological oncology surgery was explored.
Study participants were randomized into three groups:
- Group A received preoperative touch/relaxation techniques, followed by intraoperative acupuncture, plus standard care;
- Group B received preoperative touch/relaxation only, plus standard care;
- Group C (the control group) received standard care.
Pain and anxiety were scored before and after surgery using the Measure Yourself Concerns and Wellbeing (MYCAW) and Quality of Recovery (QOR-15) questionnaires, using Part B of the QOR to assess pain, anxiety, and other quality-of-life parameters.
A total of 99 patients participated in the study: 45 in Group A, 25 in Group B, and 29 in Group C. The three groups had similar baseline demographic and surgery-related characteristics. Postoperative QOR-Part B scores were significantly higher in the treatment groups (A and B) when compared with controls (p = .005), including for severe pain (p = .011) and anxiety (p = .007). Between-group improvement for severe pain was observed in Group A compared with controls (p = .011). Within-group improvement for QOR depression subscales was observed in only the intervention groups (p <0.0001). Compared with Group B, Group A had better improvement of MYCAW-reported concerns (p = .025).
The authors concluded that a preoperative touch/relaxation intervention may significantly reduce postoperative anxiety, possibly depression, in patients undergoing gynecological oncology surgery. The addition of intraoperative acupuncture significantly reduced severe pain when compared with controls. Further research is needed to confirm these findings and better understand the impact of intraoperative acupuncture on postoperative pain.
Regular readers of my blog know only too well what I am going to say about this study.
Imagine you have a basket full of apples and your friend has the same plus a basket full of pears. Who do you think has more fruit?
Dumb question, you say?
Just as dumb, it seems, as this study: therapy A and therapy B will always generate better outcomes than therapy B alone. But that does not mean that therapy A per se is effective. Because therapy A generates a placebo effect, it might just be that it has no effect beyond placebo. And that acupuncture can generate placebo effects has been known for a very long time; to verify this we need no RCT.
As I have so often pointed out, the A+B versus B study design never generates a negative finding.
This is, I fear, precisely the reason why this design is so popular in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)! It enables promoters of SCAM (who are not as dumb as the studies they conduct) to pretend they are scientists testing their therapies in rigorous RCTs.
The most disappointing thing about all this is perhaps that more and more top journals play along with this scheme to mislead the public!
This meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) was aimed at evaluating the effects of massage therapy in the treatment of postoperative pain.
Three databases (PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials) were searched for RCTs published from database inception through January 26, 2021. The primary outcome was pain relief. The quality of RCTs was appraised with the Cochrane Collaboration risk of bias tool. The random-effect model was used to calculate the effect sizes and standardized mean difference (SMD) with 95% confidential intervals (CIs) as a summary effect. The heterogeneity test was conducted through I2. Subgroup and sensitivity analyses were used to explore the source of heterogeneity. Possible publication bias was assessed using visual inspection of funnel plot asymmetry.
The analysis included 33 RCTs and showed that MT is effective in reducing postoperative pain (SMD, -1.32; 95% CI, −2.01 to −0.63; p = 0.0002; I2 = 98.67%). A similarly positive effect was found for both short (immediate assessment) and long terms (assessment performed 4 to 6 weeks after the MT). Neither the duration per session nor the dose had a significant impact on the effect of MT, and there was no difference in the effects of different MT types. In addition, MT seemed to be more effective for adults. Furthermore, MT had better analgesic effects on cesarean section and heart surgery than orthopedic surgery.
The authors concluded that MT may be effective for postoperative pain relief. We also found a high level of heterogeneity among existing studies, most of which were compromised in the methodological quality. Thus, more high-quality RCTs with a low risk of bias, longer follow-up, and a sufficient sample size are needed to demonstrate the true usefulness of MT.
The authors discuss that publication bias might be possible due to the exclusion of all studies not published in English. Additionally, the included RCTs were extremely heterogeneous. None of the included studies was double-blind (which is, of course, not easy to do for MT). There was evidence of publication bias in the included data. In addition, there is no uniform evaluation standard for the operation level of massage practitioners, which may lead to research implementation bias.
Patients who have just had an operation and are in pain are usually thankful for the attention provided by carers. It might thus not matter whether it is provided by a massage or other therapist. The question is: does it matter? For the patient, it probably doesn’t; However, for making progress, it does, in my view.
In the end, we have to realize that, with clinical trials of certain treatments, scientific rigor can reach its limits. It is not possible to conduct double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of MT. Thus we can only conclude that, for some indications, massage seems to be helpful (and almost free of adverse effects).
This is also the conclusion that has been drawn long ago in some countries. In Germany, for instance, where I trained and practiced in my younger years, Swedish massage therapy has always been an accepted, conventional form of treatment (while exotic or alternative versions of massage therapy had no place in routine care). And in Vienna where I was chair of rehab medicine I employed about 8 massage therapists in my department.
Hypericum perforatum (St John’s wort) is often recommended as a remedy to relieve pain caused by nerve damage. This trial investigated whether homeopathic Hypericum leads to a reduction in postoperative pain and a decrease in pain medication compared with placebo.
The study was designed as a randomized double-blind, monocentric, placebo-controlled clinical trial with inpatients undergoing surgery for lumbar sequestrectomy. Homeopathic treatment was compared to placebo, both in addition to usual pain management. The primary endpoint was pain relief measured with a visual analog scale. Secondary endpoints were the reduction of inpatient postoperative analgesic medication and change in sensory and affective pain perception.
The results show that the change in pain perception between baseline and day 3 did not significantly differ between the study arms. With respect to pain medication, total morphine equivalent doses did not differ significantly. However, a statistical trend and a moderate effect (d = 0.432) in the decrease of pain medication consumption in favor of the Hypericum group was observed.
The authors concluded that this is the first trial of homeopathy that evaluated the efficacy of Hypericum C200 after lumbar monosegmental spinal sequestrectomy. Although no significant differences between the groups could be shown, we found that patients who took potentiated Hypericum in addition to usual pain management showed lower consumption of analgesics. Further investigations, especially with regard to pain medication, should follow to better classify the described analgesic reduction.
For a number of reasons, this is a remarkably mysterious and quite hilarious study:
- Hypericum is recommended as an analgesic for neuropathic pain.
- According to the ‘like cures like’ axiom of homeopathy, it therefore must increase pain in such situations.
- Yet, the authors of this trial mounted an RCT to see whether it reduces pain.
- Thus they either do not understand homeopathy or wanted to sabotage it.
- As they are well-known pro-homeopathy researchers affiliated with a university that promotes homeopathy (Witten/Herdecke University, Herdecke, Germany), both explanations are highly implausible.
- The facts that the paper was published in a pro-SCAM journal (J Integr Complement Med), and the study was sponsored by the largest German firm of homeopathics (Deutsche Homoeopathische Union) renders all this even more puzzling.
- However, these biases do explain that the authors do their very best to mislead us by including some unwarranted ‘positive’ findings in their overall conclusions.
In the end, none of this matters, because the results of the study reveal that firstly the homeopathic ‘law of similars’ is nonsense, and secondly one homeopathic placebo (i.e. Hypericum C200) produces exactly the same outcomes as another, non-homeopathic placebo.
Osteopathy is currently regulated in 12 European countries: Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Switzerland, and the UK. Other countries such as Belgium and Norway have not fully regulated it. In Austria, osteopathy is not recognized or regulated. The Osteopathic Practitioners Estimates and RAtes (OPERA) project was developed as a Europe-based survey, whereby an updated profile of osteopaths not only provides new data for Austria but also allows comparisons with other European countries.
A voluntary, online-based, closed-ended survey was distributed across Austria in the period between April and August 2020. The original English OPERA questionnaire, composed of 52 questions in seven sections, was translated into German and adapted to the Austrian situation. Recruitment was performed through social media and an e-based campaign.
The survey was completed by 338 individuals (response rate ~26%), of which 239 (71%) were female. The median age of the responders was 40–49 years. Almost all had preliminary healthcare training, mainly in physiotherapy (72%). The majority of respondents were self-employed (88%) and working as sole practitioners (54%). The median number of consultations per week was 21–25 and the majority of respondents scheduled 46–60 minutes for each consultation (69%).
The most commonly used diagnostic techniques were: palpation of position/structure, palpation of tenderness, and visual inspection. The most commonly used treatment techniques were cranial, visceral, and articulatory/mobilization techniques. The majority of patients estimated by respondents consulted an osteopath for musculoskeletal complaints mainly localized in the lumbar and cervical region. Although the majority of respondents experienced a strong osteopathic identity, only a small proportion (17%) advertise themselves exclusively as osteopaths.
The authors concluded that this study represents the first published document to determine the characteristics of the osteopathic practitioners in Austria using large, national data. It provides new information on where, how, and by whom osteopathic care is delivered. The information provided may contribute to the evidence used by stakeholders and policy makers for the future regulation of the profession in Austria.
This paper reveals several findings that are, I think, noteworthy:
- Visceral osteopathy was used often or very often by 84% of the osteopaths.
- Muscle energy techniques were used often or very often by 53% of the osteopaths.
- Techniques applied to the breasts were used by 59% of the osteopaths.
- Vaginal techniques were used by 49% of the osteopaths.
- Rectal techniques were used by 39% of the osteopaths.
- “Taping/kinesiology tape” was used by 40% of osteopaths.
- Applied kinesiology was used by 17% of osteopaths and was by far the most-used diagnostic approach.
Perhaps the most worrying finding of the entire paper is summarized in this sentence: “Informed consent for oral techniques was requested only by 10.4% of respondents, and for genital and rectal techniques by 21.0% and 18.3% respectively.”
I am lost for words!
I fail to understand what meaningful medical purpose the fingers of an osteopath are supposed to have in a patient’s vagina or rectum. Surely, putting them there is a gross violation of medical ethics.
Considering these points, I find it impossible not to conclude that far too many Austrian osteopaths practice treatments that are implausible, unproven, potentially harmful, unethical, and illegal. If patients had the courage to take action, many of these charlatans would probably spend some time in jail.