Physical Therapy: Gone To The Dark Side?

As some of you may know, this blogger is a retired physical therapist. One of the reasons for early retirement was the frequent battle with many fellow physical therapists over the use of alternative medicine practices within the field.

This blogger recently read a book that will soon be available within a distance Continuing Education course. The book is entitled Complimentary Therapies for Physical Therapy. It is published by Elsevier, which also publishes a controversial magazine called Medical Hypotheses and has been involved with several questionable publishing practices in the past.

This book actually is pretty thorough and detailed in its presentation on a wide variety of practices within the "Alternative Medicine" universe. However, it fails to analyze the field with a skeptical eye. For example:
  • Cited literature in support of the practices was not analyzed to determine the quality of the research.
  • "Western"/"Allopathic" medicine (these are pejorative terms used by "Alternative" medicine proponents to describe Real medicine!) was essentially presented as just another way of practicing medicine. There was no critical analysis of the problems with "Alternative" practices.
  • Although the term "Evidenced-Based Medicine" was frequently mentioned as a pillar of clinical decision-making, the clinicians involved with the case studies used in each chapter uniformly proceeded to provide, recommend or allow the "Alternative" practice, even though the findings of the cited literature provide little or no reason for such.
  • When there was a practice that did have some plausibility and/or suggestive preliminary evidence for effectiveness, no attempt was made to discuss the "Alternative" practice in the light of conventional practices fulfilling the same goals.
To give "the devil his due", the book did present the "Alternative" practices as possible "compliments", rather than substitutes, for conventional treatments. However, should insurance companies and government payers pay for such unproven practices? Should the physical therapy profession encourage or allow unscientific treatments under its banner and, if so, is such ethical?

It is this blogger's opinion that labeling this uncritical book, and others like it, as "continuing education" is a bastardization of the term.

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