NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine - https://archive.org/web/.
Read Original Story

Tai chi eases fibromyalgia symptoms, study finds

Rating

2 Star

Tai chi eases fibromyalgia symptoms, study finds

Our Review Summary

 This brief story does manage to distinguish itself in two ways, one positive and one negative. First, the story notes how the study was funded and where the researchers have potential conflicts of interest. On the other hand, the top of the story editorializes by describing the study as "well done" without giving any rationale for that judgment.

 

Why This Matters

The NIH estimates that 5 million Americans over 18 have fibromyalgia.  They deserve more details, more about the evidence, more about the benefits/harms, more about tai chi (and its availability and costs).

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There is no discussion of costs.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quantify potential benefits.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not discuss potential harms. It is difficult to imagine that twice-weekly tai chi, like any other form of moderate exercise, would be harmful, but, at a minimum, the story could have reported upon the study’s adverse events registry. The NEJM story on which the story was based clearly addresses this.

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

Not Satisfactory

The study was small, but the story does not call this out as a problem or provide any detailed comparison of the results experienced by the two patient groups, only one of which participated in tai chi. In addition, the lead graph in the story praises the study as "well done," but doesn’t explain why.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

This story avoids disease mongering. It does not cite any questionable statistics about the number of people afflicted with fibromyalgia, does not belabor the symptoms and even goes so far to raise the possibility that the condition is psychological rather than physical.

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

Satisfactory

Unlike some other coverage of the research, this story does clearly describe potential conflicts of interest among the researchers. It references comments in the accompanying editorial. In addition, the article reports the source of funding.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

 The story does not mention any other forms of treatment.

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

Not Satisfactory

Like other coverage of the research, this story did not discuss the availability of tai chi classes.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The article does not mention even in passing any other forms of treatment.

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

Satisfactory

The research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and it appears that all of the information in the article came from the journal.  However, the story does note some cautionary comments from an accompanying editorial.

Total Score: 3 of 10 Satisfactory

Comments

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.