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Homeopathic arnica for prevention of pain and bruising: randomized placebo-controlled trial in hand surgery

PainSci » bibliography » Stevinson et al 2003
Tags: homeopathy, surgery, medications, controversy, carpal tunnel, debunkery, treatment, self-treatment, overuse injury, injury, pain problems, hand & wrist, arm, limbs

One article on PainSci cites Stevinson 2003: Does Arnica Gel Work for Pain?

PainSci notes on Stevinson 2003:

Researchers tested homeopathic arnica (Traumeel) to see if it would reduce swelling and pain after hand surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. It did not: “The trial data do not support the notion that arnica is efficacious.” This study is notable for being better-designed and a little larger than most studies of homeopathic arnica.

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.

Homeopathic arnica is widely believed to control bruising, reduce swelling and promote recovery after local trauma; many patients therefore take it perioperatively.

To determine whether this treatment has any effect, we conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial with three parallel arms. 64 adults undergoing elective surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome were randomized to take three tablets daily of homeopathic arnica 30C or 6C or placebo for seven days before surgery and fourteen days after surgery.

Primary outcome measures were pain (short form McGill Pain Questionnaire) and bruising (colour separation analysis) at four days after surgery. Secondary outcome measures were swelling (wrist circumference) and use of analgesic medication (patient diary). 62 patients could be included in the intention-to-treat analysis. There were no group differences on the primary outcome measures of pain (P=0.79) and bruising (P=0.45) at day four. Swelling and use of analgesic medication also did not differ between arnica and placebo groups. Adverse events were reported by 2 patients in the arnica 6C group, 3 in the placebo group and 4 in the arnica 30C group.

The results of this trial do not suggest that homeopathic arnica has an advantage over placebo in reducing postoperative pain, bruising and swelling in patients undergoing elective hand surgery.

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