Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

This heartburn news is giving me heartburn!

 •  • 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.

A common heartburn medication — lansoprazole (Prevacid and more) — may not be effective for any throat symptoms, including pain, according to this British Medical Journal study. Hundreds of adults were given either the drug or a sham for many weeks, with no difference in results.

Damn. 😠

While no study is ever truly the last word, negative results from a good quality trial tend to be more trustworthy than “promising” small trials — because the scientists who do underpowered trials are much more likely to have tortured the data until it told them what they wanted to hear (“p-hacking”).

Keep in mind that the whole idea of evidence-based medicine is still brand-spanking new from a historical perspective. It didn’t get its modern name until 1990, from an editorial by Canadian Dr. Gordon Guyatt. And so now we are slowly working through a large backlog of untested medical practices and finding that many are duds. The uselessness of the ubiquitous modern decongestant phenylephrine is a good recent example.

This trend is a bit depressing, but not surprising.

Fortunately, plenty of conventional medical interventions do hold up to scrutiny. Just not many of the ones for pain, it seems. For example, see also muscle relaxants, another underwhelming modern medication. They are covered in detail in several of my books (low back pain, neck pain, trigger points, frozen shoulder, headaches). There is also condensed (but free) information about them in my cramps and spasms article.

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