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Acupressure bands for that sickening feeling

Rating

3 Star

Acupressure bands for that sickening feeling

Our Review Summary

This is an inspired type of health journalism: A well-researched response to a reader question about a widely used treatment–in this case, acupressure for common nausea. All of it is presented in conversational voice and easy-to-digest blocks of text. The author includes several details that anticipate readers’ questions: the kinds of nausea that acupressure is unlikely to treat successfully; how to locate the P6 acupressure point; and why it may be necessary to supplement the bands with manual pressure.

The article would have been more credible and useful by citing a few details about the studies mentioned, particularly where they were published, how they were conducted, and the size of the benefits. Adding just a few details would not damage the story’s accessibility or light tone. A comment from an independent clinician would have helped too.

The reader would have been well-served with information on the benefits, risks and costs of other treatments for common nausea.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The article reports that the bands from either manufacturer named cost around $10. The alternative treatment–self-administered acupressure–is implicitly free.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The article fails to include key details from either study that would help people understand the likelihood and amount of relief the treatments provide.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The article mentions the possiblities of discomfort and lack of relief, which seem to be the two possible harms.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The article briefly cites two studies, one verifying the utility of the bands and one the effect of acupressure on chemotherapy patients. 

The first study is much more focused on the consumer product that triggered the article, so it should have been described more fully so readers could judge its credibility–at least with where it was published and what kind of study it was. Including this would not have violated the (appropriate and useful) conversational tone of the piece.

The researcher of the chemotherapy study offers good commentary–particularly mentioning her own skepticism going into the study. But the article would have been stronger by briefly characterizing the "study after study" demonstrating effectiveness. If it’s a solid group of rigorous reports from peer-reviewed journals–or not–the article should have said so. A good recent meta-analysis is accessible on PubMed. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The article does a good job keeping nausea in perspective. When it mentions the use of acupressure in chemotherapy patients, it might have made clearer that nausea of that type is very different from typical cases. 

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The author interviews two researchers who conducted relevant studies. It did not explore potential conflicts of interest. The story would have benefitted from the comments of a disinterested clinician. 

The author includes his own "n of 1" product test, which serves as a playful counterpoint at the end of the piece. The danger of this would be the reader making too much of his "finding." But the tone and presentation make that unlikely.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The reader would have been well served by information on the cost and benefit/risks of those anti-nausea medications found on the same aisle (their potential for causing drowsiness is mentioned briefly). Any Rx drugs for more persistent or serious cases would have been worth mentioning too.

Because one common cause of nausea is pregnancy, and anti-nausea medications are usually discouraged during pregnancy, it would have been helpful to include alternatives. A meta-analysis on studies of acupressure in pregnancy is available here.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The article not only makes clear that the bands are available at drug stores, it mentions on which shelf it’s likely to be found. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The report makes clear that the bands are widely used and that the acupressure treatment on which it is based has a long history. 

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

As a response to a reader question, the article did not use a press release as a point of departure. It quotes one product’s promotional material directly, making clear it is a claim by the maker, not a statement of fact.

Total Score: 6 of 10 Satisfactory

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