Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Snake oil is not just an old-timey thing

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
Get posts in your inbox:
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.

People tend to think “snake oil” is an old-timey thing, but it is alive and well, extremely profitable, and as kooky as ever. Joe Schwarcz on athletic tapes and patches: “You have to give these people begrudging credit for coming up with the most ludicrous, meaningless, jumble of mumbo-jumbo I have ever seen.” Here’s the whole brilliant little rant:

You hardly see some sporting even these days without seeing an athlete festooned with strips of “athletic tape” on some part of their anatomy. The usual argument is that an injury causes an influx of lymphatic fluid to the area that results in swelling and pain and if the elasticized tape is properly applied, it lifts the skin, relieves pressure and allows drainage of the lymphatic fluid from the injured area.

I have no idea if that is so; there is nothing in the published literature supporting the theory. But certainly athletes think the tape helps, and whether it does so physiologically or through the power of belief, doesn’t much matter. The explanation offered may not be correct but it doesn’t sound outrageous.

That, however, is not the case for “StaminaPro” patches. These claim to reduce inflammation through “energy medicine.” By the company’s admission, the patches contain no active ingredients. “They contain no harmful drugs, synthetic chemicals or side effects and are safe and effective for all ages. Our patches are non-transdermal; no chemicals or drugs enter the body.” So how do they help the healing? Well, the patches are charged with electrons!

Where do the electrons come from? “The electron energy is captured from Amino Acids, Activators, Adaptogens, Antioxidants, Arnica, ATP, B-Complex, BCAAs, Beet Root, Bioperine, Boswellia, CoQ10, Curcumin, Enzymes, Glutathione, Green Tea Extract, Hops, L-Glutamine, Lavender, Leucine, Magnesium, MSM, Olive Leaf, Omega-3, Polyphenols, Telomerase, Turmeric, Vitamin D, Vitamins & Minerals, and over 200 more.” Wow! Seems every nutrient these crazies have ever heard of. Why crazies? Just look at the explanation offered for the healing effect.

“Each patch contains 5.2 x 10^19 molecular structures per square inch, each with 2 oxygen polar bonding areas capable of holding a targeted, host electron, creating a total possible charging capacity equal to 10.4 x 10^19 host electrons per square inch. After considering the average transmission field voltage of humans (200 micro volts) we can calculate the relative capacity, per square inch of patch, at 333 Pico Farads.”

You have to give these people begrudging credit for coming up with the most ludicrous, meaningless, jumble of mumbo-jumbo I have ever seen.

A dazzling example of therapy babble. For critical analysis of more conventional ordinary claims about Kinesio Tape — and yet still dubious! — see The Dubious Science of Kinesiology Tape: The origin story and science of therapy tapes like Kinesio Tape, KT Tape, Spider-Tech, RockTape Spoiler alert: probably not.

PainSci Member Login » Submit your email to unlock member content. If you can’t remember/access your registration email, please contact me. ~ Paul Ingraham, PainSci Publisher