Alternative treatments 'may be dangerous' says complementary medicines expert, as studies fail to mention adverse effects
Half of chiropractic treatment trials in study failed to mention if there were any adverse effects



09:08 GMT, 14 May 2012

Alternative treatments may appear safer then they actually are, because studies fail to report adverse effects, according to the UK's only professor of complementary medicine.

Professor Edzard Ernst, from Exeter University, said too often the results from medical trials on therapies such as chiropractic manipulation and acupuncture were not reported correctly.

He said this was because they were often run by 'enthusiastic amateurs' more concerned about promoting their treatments rather than testing hypotheses.

Manipulation: Chiropractor treatment trials have not been as thorough as they should have been, an expert says

Manipulation: Chiropractor treatment trials have not been as thorough as they should have been, an expert says

Chiropractors use their hands to manipulate the spine to treat a range of musculoskeletal problems.

The alternative therapy has been approved by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence as a treatment for lower back pain.

However, Professor Ernst estimated as many as
half of patients experience at least mild adverse effects, such as pain in the
area of manipulation.

He added there are around 700 case studies where severe complications had been reported.

Yet he told The Guardian: 'When you read the literature, you see proclamations that spinal manipulation, according to chiropractors, is 100 per cent safe.'

In his latest research, Professor Ernst studied 60 randomised controlled trials of chiropractic treatment carried out between 2000 and 2011.

His team found that 29 of the trials failed to mention any adverse effects of the treatment.

Professor Ernst said this wasn't because non occurred, as that would need to be mentioned in the literature as well.

'The reason is that investigators do not think of reporting them,' he said.

Only one of the 60 studies provided complete information on incidence, severity, duration, frequency and method of reporting of adverse effects. Conflicts of interest were also not mentioned by most authors.

This under reporting makes it difficult for a patient to balance the benefits of treatment against potential harm.

Professor Ernst added that chiropractic treatment could sometimes even have 'fatal' consequences. He said extreme movement of the neck
could cause an artery to disintegrate causing a stroke.

The study was reported in The New Zealand Medical Journal.

The British Chiropractic has yet to comment on the report.