Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Equally ineffective

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

When a test of two treatments shows them to be “equally effective” — a fairly common conclusion in medical science — people often fail to consider the possibility that they are actually equally ineffective, and that the apparent benefits were actually due to something else entirely: other treatments, the healing kiss of time, good ol’ regression to the mean, and so on. This is why it’s so important to compare treatments to a persuasive placebo.