Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

The Experiment Experiment 

 •  • 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 PainScience.com: a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Photo of a young man in front of a steaming beaker full of green fluid, wearing a T-shirt that reads “Science: it works, bitches.”

It does work. But it’s super tricky.

The Planet Money podcast did a terrific episode about science’s file drawer effect, and other ways that seemingly good science can be surprisingly wrong. They tell the story of Brian Nosek’s Reproducibility Project: do-overs for 100 well-known psychology experiments, which found that a majority of could not be replicated.

Not all science is so uncertain and unsettled, but psychology is particularly messy and difficult, and medical science is also probably more prone to this problem than physics, and even worse with musculoskeletal medicine. This is why I’m really not kidding around when I say that “one study means nothing” … especially if it’s one study produced by people who have something to prove or an ax to grind. Here’s a laughably perfect example: “proof” that a fascia-focused treatment works, reported without a trace of critical thinking.