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New treatment seen for back-pain relief

Rating

1 Star

New treatment seen for back-pain relief

Our Review Summary

This story reports on the experience of one physician, the owner of a spine center, in performing spinal decompression therapy for herniated disc. The claims of very high recovery rates at reduced cost allowing patients to avoid invasive surgery are very appealing. However, this story is flawed in many ways.

The story only quotes one physician, the owner of a center that provides spinal decompression. This is a major flaw in the story. The story should have quoted other clinicians or researchers to provide some context for the claims being made. The story quantifies the benefits of treatment in relative terms only. Also, the story does not compare the effectiveness of spinal decompression to other alternatives. The story says that “research has shown 86 to 94% success rate with decompression.” Compared to what? Most people with back pain find that the pain resolves on its own or with minimal intervention. Furthermore, the story does not explain the strength of the available evidence, which is not very strong.

The story does not provide adequate information on the novelty of decompression, on potential harms of the treatment, or on the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment compared to the alternative options. Although the story does explain that this treatment is available and claims that the treatment is common on the West Coast but not in the Midwest, this is not sufficient information on availability.

By describing a patient who “came crawling into my practice,” the story crosses the line into disease mongering. This case represents an extreme example of herniated disc. Many patients are not as bothered by symptoms. The story also starts out by saying that this is a new treatment for herniated discs, but later claims that it can be used to treat a wide variety of back pain conditions. The story also does not explain that this treatment should not be used in people who have had back pain for less than a few months, for whom exercise and time would be the best course of treatment.

The story does mention the cost of the treatment, which is not covered by insurance. The story should have compared the cost to other available treatments.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story does mention the cost of the treatment, which is not covered by insurance. The story should have compared the cost to other available treatments. Nonetheless we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and score it satisfactory.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story quantifies the benefits of treatment in relative terms only. The story says, “Research has shown an 86 percent to 94 percent success rate.” Readers need to know: 86 to 94 percent of what? And how is “success” measured? Also, the story does not compare the effectiveness of spinal decompression with that of other alternatives.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention any potential harms of this approach.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not explain the strength of the available evidence, which is not very strong.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

By describing a patient who “came crawling into my practice,” the story crosses the line into disease mongering. This case represents an extreme example of herniated disc. Many patients are not as bothered by symptoms. The story also starts out by saying that this is a new treatment for herniated discs, but later claims that it can be used to treat a wide variety of back pain conditions. The story also does not explain that this treatment should not be used in people who have had back pain for less than a few months, for whom exercise and time would be the best course of treatment.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story only quotes one physician, the owner of a center that provides spinal decompression. This is a major flaw in the story. The story should have quoted other clinicians or researchers to provide some context for the claims being made.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story mentions surgery and painkillers, this is not sufficient information on alternative options.

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

Not Satisfactory

Although the story does explain that this treatment is available and claims that the treatment is common on the West Coast but not in the Midwest, this is not sufficient information on availability. The story doesn’t give the reader any information on where to look for the treatment other than the owner of one facility.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story refers to the treatment as “new,” this is not sufficient information on the novelty of decompression.

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

Not Applicable

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

Total Score: 1 of 9 Satisfactory

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