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Guide to alternative therapies , aka Snake Oil

Discussion in 'Break Room' started by Craig Payne, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator


    Members do not see these Ads. Sign Up.
    This worth a laugh at:

    Attached Files:

  2. Lab Guy

    Lab Guy Well-Known Member

    If you were a medical doctor, which of the above, if any, would you recommend to your patients to not be an alternative but rather complementary to your own treatment for chronic pain, cancer, et.

  3. PodAc doc

    PodAc doc Active Member

    Sorry Craig, but I don't find this funny. I find it ill-informed and disrespectful.

    Beyond rude, I find it very offensive to those members of this arena who find value in the disciplines featured in the diagram. Taken with the many similar items that appear here, it could well be construed as harassment.

    It has nothing to do with podiatry, so I am left wondering why you posted it in this arena.

    It seems likely to (perhaps even intended to) intimidate anyone from posting serious consideration of any approaches at risk of being labelled 'alternative'.

    Coming from a moderator of this forum, it reveals a bias that mitigates against open and honest discussion of these topics and against the "science, reason & critical thinking" it refers to.

    If you want us to respect your views and input here, please show a little respect in return. Thank you.

  4. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Its meant to be funny and disrespectful. Those who scam the public with fraudulent therapies and claims that have been clearly shown to be no better than a placebo deserve to be disrespected and ridiculed.
    How is it biased? The science shows that most of those therapies don't work! I go with the science rather than the nonsensical claims by snake oil salesman that have been proven to not work. That is exactly what "science, reason & critical thinking" is all about. I have an open mind, but when the science says something is a scam, its time to ridicule it.
    It was posted in the 'Break Room', where it is "The Forum to talk about anything and everything. What's discussed is up to you!".
  5. Lab Guy

    Lab Guy Well-Known Member


    There are alternative treatments that Craig listed that I embrace (I love to give and receive energy healing) so for me it was not worth a laugh either. However, I personally believe that alternative treatments should never be a substitute for evidence based allopathic medicine as real harm can come from it.

    Lay people put off going to a real medical doctor for something serious as they are being treated and commonly misdiagnosed by an alternative practitioner. Many do not get better and now their disease has progressed making it more difficult for real medical treatment to treat. On the flip side, there are people who were not helped by traditional medical care and therefore try alternative care as a last resort.

    By and large alternative practitioners are not critical thinkers and lack discernment as they do not possess in-depth medical knowledge. Chiropractors are different and do not deserve to be in the same class as homeopaths and the like in my opinion.

    I do think that most people go into the alternative field with good intentions and believe in what they are doing. To me, snake oil salesmen are just out to make a buck at the expense of the patient's health.

    I will say that I highly respect Craig's discernment to what is valuable and what is not. We need more people like Craig with his passion and acumen to use the tools of critical thinking and unmask the truth through his highly skilled interpretation of past and current research.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2014
  6. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    OK, lets have a critical thinking science based approach to all those therapies listing in my original post:

    Colonic Irrigation:
    Foot 'detox' scam
    Debunking The Detox Myth
    Penn & Teller: Bull****!
    Vaccine denial
    Penn & Teller's Bull****!: Vaccinations
    Prayer & Faith healing
    Rational Wiki
    Faith healing

    Reiki Is Nonsense
    Your Skeptical Guide to Chiropractic History, Theories, and Practices
    Magnet Therapy
    British Medical Journal: Magnet Therapy
    Alphabiotics: Sorry Fellas, it's a Cult.
    Crystal Healing
    Angel therapy
    Angel therapy
    Vitamin Megadoses
    What's the harm in vitamin megadoses?
    Why Craniosacral Therapy Is Silly
    Rational Wiki
    Ear candling
    Ear Candling
    Fire Cupping

    None of the above have any evidence that they are any better than a placebo. All the studies on them; the systematic reviews and meta-analyses have shown that they are no better than a placebo. If anyone is going to make claims for these treatments, then they are opening themselves to be ridiculed.
  7. PodAc doc

    PodAc doc Active Member


    Thank you for your wise words and considered approach. Yes, I too have felt the benefits of a number of the ridiculed approaches – as a recipient rather than a ‘salesman’ – but I hesitate to share this because it is likely to be dismissed as mere placebo effect.

    I did not suggest that these approaches should be used as ‘alternative’ substitutes – and the evidence is that most patients use them in parallel with, or following, orthodox medical care. I agree an integrated strategy getting the best of all approaches is an ideal to aim for. However, my perspective is a little different from yours – as I see it the risk of not going to your doctor soon enough is pretty small (there is very little evidence indeed to feed this worry – just the occasional hysterical outburst in the press), whereas the risk of going to your doctor too soon is very high – I don’t have figures to hand, but we all know that iatrogenic illness and death is a terrible problem these days, as ever. A common choice might be to have acupuncture or to take NSAIDs (eg for one’s OA knees) – but something like 3000 people die each year in the UK alone from the latter, whereas the number of deaths due to acupuncture worldwide is minute. If I had OA knees, I know which I would try first.

    You say “alternative practitioners are not critical thinkers and lack discernment as they do not possess in-depth medical knowledge”. I know what you mean and I agree that there are some pretty flaky folks out there. However, as an educator with 35 years’ experience of a variety of professions (orthodox and otherwise), I must say that I don’t see in-depth medical knowledge as any guarantee against flakiness (nor bias, nor vested interest). I have been impressed by the quality of many of the minds I have met in unorthodox circles. They don’t lack discernment – it is just that what they discern is different. And they don’t confuse ‘critical thinking’ with ‘being critical’.

    I agree that most complementary practitioners are well intentioned. Many of them (in the UK) would much rather be working in the NHS, offering their services to all regardless of wealth. In contrast I have met a great many orthodox practitioners who couldn’t wait to get out of the NHS into private practice, so they could make their fortune. The fees charged by private doctors, podiatrists, etc are usually much higher than those received by complementary therapists. If you want to buy snake oil, go to Harley St.

  8. PodAc doc

    PodAc doc Active Member


    I admire your lack of self-doubt and your confidence in venturing beyond your area of expertise but I don’t find your approach conducive to constructive discussion. I feel bullied and alienated by your postings and am less likely to consider your views seriously than I might otherwise.

    I think we have a different understanding of the scientific approach. You claim to value ‘science, reason and critical thinking’ yet your communications are emotive. You make sweeping generalisations, failing to recognise the diversity of the phenomena your refer to. You make the assertion that all of those involved in them are out to “scam the public” for which there is no evidence. You say you “go with the science” but your citations are highly selective – I don’t have the time to study all your suggested links but it is quickly evident that they are almost all from self-declared ‘quack-busting’ sites. Sticking to my area of expertise, let me comment on the acuwatch site you refer to; it is posted by someone apparently with no expertise relating to acupuncture and he writes almost exclusively about Traditional Chinese Medicine which is only a subset of acupuncture practice these days. His site is personal to him and does not undergo any form of quality control, as far as I can see. Not what I would see as a reliable source.

    Are you sure that your own profession is immune from similar criticism? When I was involved in a systematic review of acupuncture for heel pain recently, it was apparent that the evidence for acupuncture was at a higher level than that for most interventions in common use. Are podiatrists ‘scamming the public’ when they sell unvalidated treatments? How would you feel is some outsider dismissed the whole profession on the basis of this?

    I don’t understand why you express such vitriol towards the ‘alternatives’, labelling them as ‘snake-oil salesmen’ when you don’t seem to do the same for the pharmaceutical companies and orthodox private practitioners. There is now abundant evidence of vested interest, biased publications, even criminal fraud perpetrated by them. For just one example, the evidence in favour of antidepressants is much debated, yet they remain one of the most commonly prescribed drug groups. The safety profile for most alternative therapies is pretty good, whereas the same cannot be said about medicine and surgery. Meanwhile in private practice (at least here in the UK), the fees commanded by orthodox practitioners are considerable higher than unorthodox – so who is ‘ripping people off’ most? If your urge is to protect those vulnerable, naïve dupes known as the public (not that they asked you to; they might prefer it if you credited them with some discernment) then you might do more good by shifting your focus – put your efforts into critiquing those who really rip people off, and do them harm as well.

    In his writings on EBM Sackett balances consideration of ‘the best available evidence’ with the perspectives of the practitioner and the patient. It concerns me that this balance is often lost in the ritual invocation of the holy meta-analysis. What would you say to a patient who can’t tolerate NSAIDs but has tried acupuncture and consistently finds it a great help? Or to the guy who is on the waiting list for knee replacement and finds that acupuncture gives him so much sustained relief that he doesn’t need the surgery? Would you dismiss their personal experiences on the basis of abstract, impersonal research (possibly on a different patient population) and so make acupuncture unavailable to them – would that be an ethical thing to do? Or to the one who has ‘tried everything’ for his heel pain in vain and is now considering whether to try acupuncture or steroid injection – how would you weigh the importance of evidence of efficacy against their risk profiles?

    I acknowledge that there is a lot of nonsense spoken about acupuncture, both within and outside the profession. There are some who preach dogma, there are a few whose motivations are exploitative; there are some long-established practices now recognised as dangerous, there are new approaches only just gaining recognition. The same might be said of medicine and other disciplines. There is not just one ‘acupuncture’; there are several distinct approaches, so generalisations are not safe (nor good science). We need more good research to sort out the wheat from the chaff but, unlike pharmaceuticals, this is not an area that attracts funding.

    A narrow focus on the question of efficacy is premature. Acupuncture is a complex intervention and the RCT/meta-analysis is a poor tool for evaluating it. However there is growing physiological understanding of some of the mechanisms underlying it (including, but not only, the placebo response) and there are many patients who attest to its personal value to them. Rather than asking ‘does it work?’ we need to ask first ‘how can we find out the best way to optimise the benefits here?’

    You might prefer the question: ‘why on earth do apparently intelligent people indulge in these things in the face of the available evidence?’ Well, here is an alert, in today, that goes some way to address that question:
    The Problem of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Today: Eyes Half Closed? John I. MacArtney and Ayo Wahlberg
    Qual Health Res. 2014; 24:114-123.

  9. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Evaluating the quality of scientific evidence is NOT outside of my area of expertise. The scientific evidence does not support any of the above listed "therapies".

    Perhaps you could settle this by showing us ONE systematic review published in a high impact journal that shows that any one of those treatments listed is better than a placebo. As far as I can tell every single meta-analysis and systematic review of all of the above approaches has shown them all to be epic failures.

    (just on acupuncture, this just turned up in my alerts a few minutes ago: More Acupuncture Misrepresentation - shows you the length that purveyors of SCAM go to twist things to fool the gullible)
  10. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Another take on this:

    Lets just take one: eg Reflexology:
    1) there is NO physical or biological mechanism by which reflexology can work as claimed.
    2) every single systematic review and meta-analysis of the research shows that it does not work.

    In light of that, how can selling a "reflexology" service not be a fraud and scam?

    Another eg: Homeopathy:
    1) there is NO physical or biological mechanism by which homeopathy can work as claimed.
    2) every single systematic review and meta-analysis of the research shows that it does not work.

    In light of that, how can selling a "homeopathy" service not be a fraud and scam?

    The reflexologists and homeopaths roll out the usual trope of argumentative and logical fallacies and weasel words to explain the lack of a mechanism and the research on the efficacy showing that what they do does not work. They spin the usual BS of metaphysical nonsense (and often through in the word 'quantum', having no idea what it means). All that shows is that they lack the critical thinking skills to see what is in front of them and just make crap up.

    This does not mean that a damn good foot massage does not have some efficacious effect (and some research shows it does), but why dress it up in spin and BS to scam people as "refelxology". This also does not mean that spending time with a 'client' and listening to them and their problems does not have some efficacious effect (and some research shows it does), but why dress it up in spin and BS to scam people as "homeopathy".

    etc etc
  11. Rob Kidd

    Rob Kidd Well-Known Member

    I would never get involved in this debate, as I have neither the expertise, nor frankly any interest. However it rather amuses me in a wry sort of way, that the arguments used in favour of the alternative therapies outlined above (dismissed as snake oil by others), are very similar arguments to those used by the Creationist lobby; largely they consist of miss-truths, miss-quotes and unsubstantiated scientific arguments - almost invariably from non-scientists, often cleverly dressed up to look like proper scientists (or scientists in a field way outside evolutionary biology). when it gets down to the questions of where is the evidence, they fall in much the same way.

    You carry on dealing with snake oil, I will carry on fighting the Creationists. I have to say that, outside the non-vaccination camps, the alternatives probably do not do any harm; the Creationist camp is lying to people, frequently children. Rob
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
  12. PodAc doc

    PodAc doc Active Member

    Hi Rob

    I’m sure I would agree with you about ‘the Creationists’ but I know little about them and, like you, I prefer to stick to my area of interest and expertise (nearly 4 decades of practice and research in medicine and acupuncture in NHS general practice and hospitals, and in private practice, in the UK). Speaking from that perspective I can reassure you that there are a great many intelligent, honest, well-informed and well-intentioned people engaged in receiving, providing and researching complementary therapies. What you say about the Creationist arguments simply does not apply here. There may be a few bad apples, as in any other field, and these will be trumpeted by the sensationalist press and those with an axe to grind, but they are not representative. If you wish to avoid causing offense, please beware making generalisations and pejorative associations on the basis of hearsay. Thank you.

  13. PodAc doc

    PodAc doc Active Member


    Of course I don’t defend disreputable or dishonest practice. I agree that the paper you cited is an example of bad science (or at least it seems to be on the basis of this axe-grinding, journalistic report – I have not seen the original). But it is just another straw man for you to pick at; another example of selective citation; it might be seen as another example of bias, or dishonest debate.

    You claim to be open minded, but I don’t experience you that way. You have ignored most of the points I raised, so I get the impression you have no interest in understanding my point of view.

    You try to push the discussion back to the narrow question of efficacy. I experience this as an attempt to usurp power by defining the agenda narrowly in your own terms and I don’t want to play that game. As I see it, there are several important issues:

    The issue I originally raised was not the validity or otherwise of these practices but how we communicate. You thought something was funny; I pointed out that others find it offensive; you stated that the offense is deliberate; I (perhaps foolishly) tried to find some ground for shared understanding; you have shown no interest in that, so I feel there is no point continuing the discussion. My concerns that a moderator of this forum might be failing his duty (to keep this a safe place to communicate) have not been allayed.

    Another issue is freedom. There are many people who attest to the positive experience of receiving acupuncture; they do not define this in the narrow terms of efficacy for specific pathologies. The RCT is a lousy tool for achieving a scientific understanding of how these positive experiences arise, and how they can be optimised; pooling data into SR/meta-analysis takes the findings even further from the meaningful experience of the individual. Yet, on the basis of these lousy tools, you seek to deny people the freedom to continue receiving the benefits they perceive and you seek to recruit others to join you in doing so. You make dismissive generalisations of those people whose freedoms you would deny, belittling them in terms of irrationality and dishonesty, showing no respect for them. You paternalistically claim to be a public protector, but you have made no attempt to understand their perspective.

    I remain curious about why this issue bugs you so much, when there are much more important things to go on about. Let’s look at a different example – another behaviour that is carried out by many people because they like doing it, rather than for any rational reason, however this one is different in that it is the proven cause of enormous harm to individuals and society - ie the practice of drinking alcohol. Does this bug you as much as people’s private, self-funded use of alternative therapies? If so, what are you doing about it? If not, why not?

  14. BEN-HUR

    BEN-HUR Well-Known Member

    Neither would I get involved but I do find the following comments disrespectful; ironically, ill-informed/ignorant & unsubstantiated. In fact I was going to turn a blind eye to it, then I decided to post here as a result of this thread (reference to myself) that popped up just a few days after Mr Kidd's post (here). As stated in that thread:

    Yes, it amuses me also when you make such arrogant statements & don't provide any evidence/reasoning in backing them up... but then there has been a history of that, highlighted with our last encounter on this thread (particularly this post).

    I find your view of scientists with differing views (other than the 1 ordained view of naturalism) disrespectful (& ignorant). There are quite a number of scientists supporting a non-naturalist/evolutionary premise in favour of that of Intelligent cause. The "Creationist"/Intelligent Design viewpoint is largely censored from the public arena as you well know... in favour of just 1 worldview on the origin/function of the universe, biosphere & lifeforms. Some scientists I'm familiar of who seriously question this naturalist/evolution premise are:
    - Professor David Gower: emeritus professor of steroid biochemistry at the University of London.
    - Professor Walter Veith: Zoologist/Physiologist, served as professor & chairman of the Department of Zoology at the University of Western Cape, South Africa.
    - Professor Murray Eden: Information Theorist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
    - Dr John Baumgardner: PhD in Geophysics & Space Physics (UCLA), research scientist in theoretical division at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    - Professor Edward Boudreaux: Professor emeritus of chemistry at University of New Orleans.
    - Dr James Allen: former senior lecturer in genetics at the University of Stellenbosch (PhD from Uni. of Edinburgh).
    - Dr John Sanford: Geneticist, former associate professor at Cornwell University (co-inventor of the gene gun). From Wiki: "Sanford is a prolific inventor with more than 32 issued patents. At Cornell Sanford and colleagues developed the "Biolistic Particle Delivery System" or so-called "gene gun".[3][4][5] He is the co-inventor of the Pathogen-derived Resistance (PDR) process and the co-inventor of the genetic vaccination process. He was given the "Distinguished Inventor Award" by the Central New York Patent Law Association in 1990 and 1995. He has founded two biotechnology companies, Sanford Scientific and Biolistics. In 1998 he retired on the proceeds from the sale of his biotech companies, and continued at Cornell as a courtesy associate professor."
    - Dr George Javor: Professor of biochemistry at Loma Linda University of Medicine.
    - Dr Lee Spetner: PhD physics (& biophysics) from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
    - Dr Ariel Roth: PhD in zoology from University of Michigan; Professor of biology at University of Loma Linda.
    - Dr Andrew Snelling: PhD in geology from the University of Sydney.
    - Dr Andy McIntosch: professor of thermodynamics & combustion theory at University of Leeds.
    - Dr Danny Faulkner: professor of astronomy & physics at University of South Carolina.
    - Dr Werner Gitt: served as director & professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics.
    - Professor Richard E. Smalley: PhD in chemistry at Princeton University & Nobel Prize winner. Professor of Physics & Astronomy.
    - Dr Jason Lisle: PhD in Astrophysics, University of Colorado, Boulder.
    - Professor Michael Behe: Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania (Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania).

    There are also a few in Australia which I won't name due to holding tenure/research positions & major Australian Universities.

    These are just some scientists which have greater qualifications/positions (& from &/or in major universities around the world) than you Mr Kidd - & in relevant fields to the subjects/areas where evolution usually infiltrates.

    Hmmm... "fighting the Creationists"... well I haven't seen such (i.e. our history, above cited post/link)... I hope you wouldn’t resort to the likes of Ad hominem attacks (character assassination)... as what may be interpreted as such via the recent thread you posted 2 -3 days after this one (i.e. I the subject of a vague association to "racial vilification" conduct on a sports news page)... which subsequently encouraged me to submit above views & this query on this thread.

    Anyway, I’ll see it as an unfortunate coincidence of poor judgement & end it at that.
  15. Tom Quinton

    Tom Quinton Member

  16. DAVOhorn

    DAVOhorn Well-Known Member

    Dear All,

    Thank you Tom for that fabulous video.

    As an aside when I did my 1st aid update end last year the trainer was head of the Ambulance Service and lead trainer.

    Anyway we were discussing pain management and got onto the subject of placebo's.

    He said that he had a tub of THERE THERE CREAM which had magic powers.

    He said that when people were in pain and a lot of discomfort, usually physical trauma he would rub his THERE THERE CREAM onto the affected part telling the patient that this would ease the pain.

    The patients very very often reply that the pain has eased and that they felt much more comfortable. Still in a degree of pain but that the severity had eased such that they were more comfortable.

    What was this miracle cream ????? Our good friend E 45.

    He reasoned that the use of the Placebo Effect is totally justified when dealing with physical trauma and the resulting pain. Reassurance compassion and doing something eg rubbing in E 45 which results in the patient being more comfortable is acceptable. Tell the patient you are applying E 45 and there will be no benefit. But tell them you are using a wonder cream may be a lie and untrue but if it alleviates pain and distress then that is acceptable.

    The Placebo Effect is a very powerful tool and is used all the time as a way of helping people. But we must be honest in that it is the Placebo Effect and not the magic cream that is the therapy and modality of treatment.

    I personally am not a fan of complimentary therapies, I worked in a multi disciplinary clinic for 10 years with a wide and varied team of therapists. I found many of the therapies expensive and disturbing in the claims made about the therapeutic benefits.

    A friend has just completed a SHORT MASSAGE COURSE at a Beauty Therapy College and is on a mission to heal the world. Her promotional material is a bit disturbing in its claims that every body can be helped to be healed by her healing hands ad nauseum. :butcher:

    As for my opinion on Creation by a Supreme Being I am more towards survival of the fittest and genetic adaption to changes in environment over the millennia.

    I cannot accept that the world and universe is 4000 - 6000 years old when Chinese civilisation is over 10,000 years old and the Aboriginals moved to Australia 40,000 - 70,000 years ago when Australia was much much closer to India.

    But there again that is my opinion based on the knowledge that I have acquired over the years.

  17. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator


    Attached Files:

  18. drmkatz

    drmkatz Member

    I know this is an old thread but there has been a big Regenerative Medicine push here in the US. The American Association of Orthopedic Medicine is a large group of well respected doctors of all disciplines. Dr. Dean Reeves is an MD in Kansas and performs research with Level 1 and Level 2 published studies for prolotherapy. Here is an article relating to to foot, ankle and knee that has links to his studies.

    Hope this will help those that are interested in some of these treatments:


  19. Stanley

    Stanley Well-Known Member


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