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Better than what? Comparisons in low back pain clinical trials

PainSci » bibliography » Travers et al 2018
Tags: scientific medicine

One article on PainSci cites Travers 2018: Studying the Studies

PainSci commentary on Travers 2018: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

Many non-drug treatments are tricky to test scientifically, because it’s hard to compare them to a true fake treatment (like a comparing a drug to a sugar pill). Many scientists resort to comparing a treatment to some other treatment that we hope is “neutral” (probably doesn’t have much biological effect, like a sugar pill).

It’s a trap! Comparing a test treatment to an “active control” is likely to be misleading, because the active control pollutes the experiment with all kinds of unknown variables.

The point of this BJSM editorial is that these kinds of studies “need to be interpreted with caution.”

It doesn’t mean that they are all wrong, but it’s a significant and basic limitation that has to be taken seriously. And “these kinds of studies” constitute a large percentage of studies in musculoskeletal medicine.

Some excerpts that stood out:

~ Paul Ingraham

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Specifically regarding Travers 2018:

This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights: