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Evidence Based Treatments Versus Medical Fads: What's The Difference?

Grandmother, mother and childWhen you suffer from pain and hear about a potentially helpful treatment, it is easy to become hopeful. The internet is awash with advertisements for multiple different pain treatments. However, it can be hard to make sure that the treatments you select are backed by science.

Most doctors will rely on evidence-based care when making treatment decisions. These may or may not be the hottest treatments discussed online. However, evidence-based care relies on accumulated results from multiple studies.

In contrast, medical fads are newly popularized treatments. Because they are generally new, they often do not have a lot of research supporting their use. That is not to say that they are necessarily ineffective. Instead, this means that the jury is still out in terms of whether the science will end up supporting them.

As research is conducted, some medical fads may become mainstream. Other medical fads – like papaya enzyme injections for degenerative disc disease of the spine – will fall by the wayside as more data becomes available.

Sometimes, with time and evidence, the medical fad may reveal itself to be ineffective. Other times, the medical fad may turn out to be actually harmful. In the best case scenario, the medical fad may eventually end up being supported by research. In those cases, the fad can then become evidence based medicine.

Our guide to common questions about medical fads versus evidence based medicine for pain can help you determine if a treatment has research supporting its use or is a fad.

Anti-inflammatory Diet for Pain: Fad or Evidence Based?

The concept of an anti-inflammatory diet for pain has recently gained popularity. Several different anti-inflammatory diets exist, including the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet.

The idea behind an anti-inflammatory diet is that some foods can trigger inflammation. This includes processed foods, sugar, and red meat. The diet, therefore, should focus on anti-inflammatory foods like:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables
  • Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
  • Whole grains like brown rice
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Vegetable oils like olive oil
  • Fresh herbs and spices

Studies have been conducted on certain fruits and vegetables. These include blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. These studies have demonstrated that the bioactive compounds in these foods, especially micronutrients like polyphenols, may play a role in:

  • Antioxidant effects, protecting cells in the body from damage
  • Anti-inflammatory effects, easing inflammation
  • Pain relief

Data supports anti-inflammatory diets like the DASH diet for certain painful medical conditions. These include gout, which can be directly triggered by a poor diet. Further, anti-inflammatory diets are recommended by the American Heart Association for heart health. These diets can help the heart as they help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

However, data is lacking in terms of the benefit that an anti-inflammatory diet can have on other types of pain, like back pain. Although anti-inflammatory diets do appear to promote good overall health, it is unclear at this time whether they will end up someday being evidence-based for back pain relief as well.

Whole-Body Vibration for Pain Relief: Fad or Evidence Based?

Whole-body vibration has recently gained attention and popularity for both weight loss and pain relief. In whole-body vibration, you stand on a machine with a vibrating platform. Your muscles are forced to contract due to the energy in the vibrations. This may make you feel like you have gotten a workout.

Some researchers believe that whole-body vibration may help with back pain. This is because the vibrations strengthen the abdominal and back muscles. Further, low back pain is sometimes linked to muscle spasms. Vibrations under 20 hertz may cause muscles to relax, potentially relieving pain.

Although some data support whole-body vibration for back pain relief, other researchers hesitate to recommend the treatment without additional data. These researchers note that the only studies conducted at this point have been small. They believe that larger studies are needed to demonstrate that the therapy is useful for back pain.

For this reason, although evidence is accumulating on the possible benefits of whole-body vibration, it is not yet an evidence based remedy for back pain.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Joint Pain: Fad or Evidence-Based?

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements have been popular for years. They are frequently taken by those who are trying to treat or prevent joint pain. In fact, glucosamine and chondroitin are some of the most popular supplements in the United States. Both glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally produced by the body to make cartilage, a connective tissue that helps joints move.

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are available over-the-counter. Often, they are combined into a single tablet or capsule. While some formulations may be taken once per day, others need to be taken multiple times a day. Currently, no data exists about the comparative effectiveness of the different formulations.

Studies on glucosamine and chondroitin have had unclear or conflicting results. Further, most studies on glucosamine and chondroitin have focused on hand, knee or hip pain. Very little data exists about the usefulness of glucosamine and chondroitin in back pain. As a result, the American Academy of Rheumatology recommends against using glucosamine and chondroitin for osteoarthritis in the hand, knee and hip.

Because they are so widely used, many safety studies have been conducted on glucosamine and chondroitin. Interestingly, new data has shown that the supplements are linked to lower rates of death, especially from cardiovascular causes. Research suggests this possible benefit may be due to a variety of effects. These include possible anti-inflammatory properties, cholesterol-lowering effects, and the supplement’s impact on chemical messengers in the body called cytokines.

At this time, evidence-based medicine does not support the routine use of glucosamine and chondroitin. As more data becomes available, especially in regards to a possible impact on cardiovascular health, evidence based medicine may eventually end up supporting its use.

Chiropractic Care for Back Pain: Fad or Evidence Based?

Chiropractic care involves a chiropractic doctor who manually manipulates the musculoskeletal system. Most chiropractic care is focused on the spine. It can involve a combination of stretches, pressure, and manipulation.

People often seek chiropractic care for pain, especially back pain. In fact, chiropractic is the most common kind of complementary and alternative treatment for back pain.

Multiple published studies have evaluated chiropractic care for back pain and have found it to be effective. Further, the pain relief from chiropractic care tends to continue after the chiropractic session is complete. This can help improve your overall quality of life. Also, this benefit translates into less risk for other, more invasive treatments to relieve back pain, including spinal surgery and narcotics.

Studies have even assessed how well chiropractic care treats pain depending on the specific region of the back: the neck (cervical), the mid-back (thoracic), and the lower-back (lumbar) areas.

Based on an abundance of studies, evidence based medicine supports chiropractic care for pain reduction throughout the back, including in the neck (cervical), mid-back (thoracic) and lower-back (lumbar) areas.

Evidence-based Care and NUCCA Chiropractic

At Precision Spinal Care, evidence based medical care is at the core of my practice. You deserve the best care, with the strongest data proving its effectiveness and safety. To that end, I do not participate in medical fads. All of my treatment plans are based on the most recent clinical evidence and studies as relates to chiropractic care.

After an initial exam and a thorough assessment, I will discuss my treatment strategy with you. I will take the time to answer all of your questions.

If I find that chiropractic care is not the best solution to suit your needs, I will recommend the type of specialist who is most appropriate for you.

We understand that you need to explore all your options when you look for expert treatment. At Precision Spinal Care, we are happy to help you determine the best way to address your specific needs and discuss all your options.

Call our office at (757) 382-5555 to speak to the doctor or set up a consultation. You can also set up an appointment through our webpage.

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