What if your clinical trial reveals something opposite to that which you were expecting?

Jan 8, 2023 | Magnetic therapy research, Sceptics

In a conversation with popular psychologist Jordan Peterson, he proposed that, “One of the hallmarks of the validity in science, if you discover something and you really wish it wasn’t true, then it probably is.” 

How does this relate to magnetic field therapy?

Well in 1997, there was a published randomised controlled clinical trial that showed static magnets were highly effective at treating trigger point pain in individuals living with post-polio syndrome. The lead researcher, Dr Carlos Vallbona began the study to prove anecdotal results using magnets was due to the power of suggestion. 

Table of results:

The wash up of the story and the results were published in an article in the New York Times.

“NO ONE was more skeptical about using magnets for pain relief than Dr. Carlos Vallbona, former chairman of the department of community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. So Dr. Vallbona was amazed when a study he did found that small, low intensity magnets worked, at least for patients experiencing symptoms that can develop years after polio.”

“Dr. Vallbona had long been fascinated by testimonials about magnets from his patients, and even from medical leaders. But his interest in magnet therapy became more serious in 1994 when he and a colleague, Carlton F. Hazlewood, tried them for their own knee pain. The pain was gone in minutes. ”That was too good to be true,” Dr. Vallbona said.”

Other independent studies on static magnets for post-polio syndrome pain sufferers later reinforced the initial findings of Dr Vallbona.

Like many promising clinical trials using static magnets, they all plan to conduct larger and/or broader studies to confirm the results. But why is it, that these further studies never seem to eventuate?

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