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Interpretive bias in acupuncture research? A case study

PainSci » bibliography » O’Connell et al 2009
updated
Tags: treatment, back pain, acupuncture, controversy, scientific medicine, pain problems, spine, mind, debunkery, energy work

One article on PainSci cites O’Connell 2009: Complete Guide to Low Back Pain

PainSci notes on O’Connell 2009:

This is a discussion of an article about the use of acupuncture for chronic low-back pain. “The authors suggest that interpretive bias has affected reporting, leading to questionable conclusions and advocacy in favor of this form of care that may exceed the evidence. They also suggest that a lack of understanding of research into the placebo effect may have contributed to confusion in the interpretation of these trials.”

For a good related example, see author Neil O’Connell’s criticism of Molsberger et al, a paper that shows a “positive” result from acupuncture but has an absurdly glaring flaw.

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

Acupuncture is one of the most widely used and broadly researched of the complementary and alternative therapies, but high-quality trials generally show no benefit over sham acupuncture. Many would view this result as evidence of ineffectiveness for this intervention. This discussion article focuses on the report of a large multicenter randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for chronic low-back pain (CLBP) in the lay and academic press, the ensuing discussion, and its impact on both clinical practice and service provision. The authors suggest that interpretive bias has affected reporting, leading to questionable conclusions and advocacy in favor of this form of care that may exceed the evidence. They also suggest that a lack of understanding of research into the placebo effect may have contributed to confusion in the interpretation of these trials.

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