The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


Q. I always seem to hear the phrase “research shows.” What does that mean?

Medicine is a science. Treatment decisions should be based upon scientific evidence or “research.” That research is supposed to be impartial, well controlled, and subject to the scrutiny of scientific review panels.

Typically, medical research studies are conducted by doctors at university hospitals. Before results are published in research journals, they are reviewed for flaws or inaccuracies. Some studies are sponsored by drug companies and some are independently funded.

Even the most carefully planned research can, however, be misleading or simply wrong. Two equally well-done studies may produce contradictory results. One study may show that a treatment is good while another may show that the same procedure is harmful.

Research studies, done by doctors who were paid by drug companies, were recently scrutinized. Of 370 drug company-sponsored journal articles, 87 percent supported the sponsors’ advertising claims. Not a single drug company study contradicted the advertising claims of the sponsor. By contrast, thirty-seven percent of research papers, which were not paid for by the drug companies, found that the drugs did not work. Unfortunately, it is difficult to sort out if someone doing research is paid by a drug company or has another conflict of interest.

Don’t believe everything you read, even if it’s called “research.” Use common sense when you hear about something that seems too good to be true.



The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.

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Last modified: 07/27/08