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Where’s the harm in hype?

By Peter A. Jenkins

I recently came across an article on the ‘Science-Based Medicine‘ website, and in it I found the following statement relating to the often-large disconnect between the evidence and the marketing claims in relation to ‘Whole Body Vibration Therapy’ (WBVT).

“As is often the case, there is the science of WBVT and its ethical incorporation into medical practice, and in this case also physical therapy and fitness, and then there are the claims that are made for WBVT by companies selling equipment. Not surprisingly, the commercial claims significantly outstrip the evidence.”

In essence, this is exactly the same point that, as readers of The Annals will recognize, we have made repeatedly in relation to our own field of photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy (PBMT).

As is often the case, there is the science of PBM and its ethical incorporation into [physical therapy and medical, dental and veterinary] practice, and then there are the claims that are made for PBMT devices by companies selling equipment. Not surprisingly, the commercial claims significantly outstrip the evidence.

Again, “…commercial claims significantly outstrip the evidence.”.  But this does not mean there is no evidence: We actually have a huge body of mechanistic and clinical evidence from over 50 years of PBM research and practise, and although further research will always be needed to identify additional mechanisms and potential applications, and to optimise parameters, our current knowledge of PBM is more than sufficient to support its potential use across a myriad different indications.

It simply behoves the clinician and, indeed, the patient to look beyond the marketing hype to see whether any of this evidence supports the use of PBM, whether alone or in combination with other interventions, for a specific indication or outcome.

However, and unfortunately, in the drive to increase profits and sell more devices than their competitors, commercial entities are putting up a smoke screen of overly-hyped claims and counterclaims, making it harder to identify the ‘true’ facts and actual evidence. As a result, PBM is often applied with less-than-optimal, or even incorrect, parameters or with inappropriate devices, or used in cases where PBM is not even indicated.

Creating such an environment opens the door to broader criticism and distrust, and makes it even more difficult for us to have PBM be accepted for what it can truly offer.

Hype is harmful, and anyone indulging does a disservice to both clinician and patient, and to the industry as a whole.

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