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Cutting edge: Back pain


2 Star

Cutting edge: Back pain

Our Review Summary

Inversion therapy involves hanging at an angle and using gravity to stretch out the spine and supporting muscles. It is often advertised and touted as a cure for back pain, however there is little evidence to support its use and is not considered a serious or front-line treatment option.

This program did not provide adequate information for the viewer on the evidence to support the use of inversion tables, the potential harms of the treatment, and the potential treatment alternatives. Given that this is simply a new version of traction (using gravity), it is a glaring omission that the story did not comment on the now large body of evidence showing that traction is not an effective therapy and that it could actually be harmful in patients with certain conditions such as heart disease or balance problems.

A lot of hype in this story but little substance.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


The story describes the cost of the tables.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quantify the benefits of treatment.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention any potential harms of the inversion table treatment and that the treatment may be a bad idea for individuals with certian medical conditions such as heart disease or balance problems.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not comment on the strength of the available evidence to support the use of inversion tables to treat back pain. Of note, there are numerous studies of traction in the medical literature that show this is a worthless treatment.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story does not exagerrate the seriousness or prevalence of back pain. The story could have been more specific about the different types of back problems that the tables could be used to treat or should not be used for.  Also one could imagine that individuals with certain medical conditions would probably shouldn’t use this type of device.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story only quotes one expert and it is not clear if he is independent because he claims to use the inversion tables in his practice. The story should have quoted another expert who is clearly not invested in the product who could have provided some additional perspective.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story mentions exercise and physical activity, this is not enough information on the alternative treatment options for back pain.

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


The story clearly states that the tables are available, but it isn’t clear where (medical supply companies? doctors offices? physical therapy offices?).

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not comment on whether inversion tables are a new idea or not.  Traction has been around for a long time.  The story didn’t point out that studies have not demonstrated a benefit from traction in any form.

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

Not Applicable

There is no way to know if the story relied on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory


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