Monthly Archives: November 2015

Controversy over the use of magnetic therapy in the treatment of osteoarthritis

brstd-11-wmaps-510Ask anyone who suffers from osteoarthritis – or any form of arthritis for that matter – and they’ll tell you that they have heard of magnetic therapy. A good many of them are cautiously positive about its efficacy as a palliative to the condition. Some of them even swear by it. But GPs and hospital specialists tend to be wary of it, claiming that it is at best unproven and at worst just a placebo.

But what does the research show? There are a number of studies that have shown that magnet therapy does alleviate pain in osteoarthritis sufferers. However, the medical establishment has always been uncomfortable with these studies and has attacked them, on two sets of grounds. The first is that the sample of patients they study is too small to draw any firm conclusions. The second is that even though the studies are technically “double-blind” – the Gold Standard within the medical research industry – they can never be completely “blind” because the patients can hold the putative magnets to an iron object and see if there is any attraction between them. This would mean that if they wanted to they could find out and this would invalidate the results of the study.

bac-1021-wmpsNow it seems strange to me that anyone would actually want to do this.  Apart from anything else it would imply ill-intent on the part of the patients. But is there any reason to think that human nature acts this way. Certainly no one has ever undertaken a study to determine whether such patient behaviour is common, or even if it happens at all!

A recent article on the Magnetic products store blog made short shrift of this argument:

One assumes that they would have no motive to do so. It is not as if either they or anyone else stands to benefit from such behaviour. And yet the sceptics – or rather the cynics – would have us believe that people who have volunteered to take part in a clinical trial would rather go out of their way to sabotage the trial or undermine its results than simply cooperate and work with the trial to achieve its objectives. This is a fairly outlandish conclusion to draw – and surely an absurd misinterpretation of human nature.

This very succinctly sums up the problem. The medical establishment is so anxious to discredit magnetic therapy – and indeed alternative medicine in general – that they cannot see the wood for the trees.

 

Advertisements

The word skeptic is probably one of the most grossly overused – not to mention misused – words in the English language. Thus, people who dispute the overwhelming evidence in support of man-made climate change are said to be “climate change skeptics.” In reality, they are of course “deniers” rather than mere skeptics. They do not just challenge the overwhelming opinion of meteorologists and climatologists, they flat out deny it, latch onto every piece of pseudoscientific garbage and even attempt to traduce the reputations of the most prestigious of scientists.

Not “pseudoscience” is not a word I feel comfortable with as it is a word that thrown about a little too freely by orthodox medical practitioners with regard to something dear to my heart: magnetic therapy. The article about it in a certain well-known online encyclopedia, for example, effectively equates the use of magnets for treatment or pain relief as if it were the equivalent of tea-leaf reading (for those old enough to remember what tea leaves are) and phrenology. Now I don’t know about you, but I think that comparing an old “grandmother’s” superstition like tea leaf reading with a scientifically-based therapeutic technique that takes advantage of oxygenated blood’s diamagnetic properties and deoxygenated blood’s paramagnetic properties, is not only incredibly insulting, it’s downright stupid.

What is particularly galling is that one person seems to “own” the page – or at least thinks he does. But I did a little digging and discovered that he had been somewhat disingenuous in what he wrote. Specifically, he cited an article that supposedly reviewed many case studies and concluded that magnetic therapy does not work, or at least that there is not enough evidence to show that it does. However, I followed the link to the article and read it and guess what? It turns out that the article he referred to (but conveniently didn’t actually quote from) said that in the case of  osteoarthritis there isn’t enough evidence to rule out the possibility that wearing magnets can help alleviate the pain.

I would take it further and say that the studies the article looked at in its review showed perfectly well that such treatment does work. But I think the point he was trying to make was that the studies that support the use of magnets treatment tend to use small samples. And of course small samples weakens the results. It doesn’t undermine them, it just renders them inconclusive.

As the Wiki entry was plainly misleading, I tried to change it by adding the relevant sentence from the article. As the article had already been cited, it seemed perfectly reasonable to add a direct quote from it. But our champion of skepticism didn’t like the way on which his frontal assault on magnetic treatment had been compromised, so he reverted it back to the misleading way it was. Then, he added another more recent review of the literature, this one from only three years ago, claiming that it too supported his disbelieving position.

So again I checked the source article to see if there was anything he wasn’t telling us. And again, a brief look confirmed what I had suspected all along: namely that the new article also stated not that the use of magnets couldn’t help people suffering from osteoarthritis, but only that the evidence was inconclusive.

But why is it inconclusive. The only reason given is that the people in the experiment can check if the magnets are real or fake. But in practice it is extremely unlikely that they are doing so. So this is really just an excuse by the orthodox scientists to reject evidence that a disruptive medical technology – not an unscientific one- can actually make a difference.

Changing directions

Though not sure yet which direction it is. So please wait.

Are we back?

Yes we are. See you soon.