In modern Western society, complementary therapies are now widely accepted and used. The UK cancer research cites a meta-analysis study published in 2012 suggesting that around half of people with cancer use some sort of complementary therapy at some time during their illness. This seems to be true for many other long-term chronic conditions. These therapies can be used alongside pharmaceutical treatments and other medical interventions, or there are patients that would use the therapies as an alternative to what Western medicine has to offer. The reasons for patients to take this route can vary widely, from alleviating side-effects of treatments, getting more personal attention, feeling more in control of their own situation or as an actual treatment alternative. This is often a choice made by the patient after conducting a lot of research, and the decision is not taken lightly.
This increased use of complementary and alternative therapies has led to serious concerns being raised – do these therapies interact with pharmaceutical products? Are they safe? Is there scientific evidence that they actually work? Are the practitioners or therapists providing the right advice? This leads to complementary therapies often being criticised for their lack of scientific or clinical evidence. In the case of muscle response testing, we also lack robust data to support efficacy, accuracy and safety data that has been collected in a standardised way that would support its use in the wider population.
Product development by pharmaceutical industries is complex. Drug development starts with screening of active components, pre-clinical investigations, and four phases of clinical trials with patients. These studies will look at drug safety, side effects, dosage, comparison with other drugs etc. They also ensure reproducibility – that means the same drug, given to persons with the same symptoms or diagnosis consistently get the same result. These trials can be randomised controlled trials, observational studies and quality of life studies…and an overall meta-analysis that puts all the information together. This whole process is extremely costly (millions of dollars) and time consuming (it can take more than 5 years to develop a new product and bring it to market). It is therefore not surprising that the pharmaceutical industry often defend the importance of these trials in ensuring patient safety as well as product efficacy and efficiency. It also means that there is an attack on any competing products, therapies or treatments that do not meet these same standards.
Anyone working as an alternative or complementary healthcare practitioner will know that providing holistic, individualised care is very different in comparison to modern, Western medicine, where generally treatment is of symptoms with drugs or procedures as specified in standard treatment protocols. This marked difference between treatment approaches makes drug development guidelines very difficult if not impossible to follow for measuring safety, efficacy and reproducibility of alternative or complimentary treatments. This does not mean however that it is not possible to conduct studies within the complementary and alternative medicine fields, and in fact more and more work has been taking place with international support in this area. There are internationally recognised bodies such as the ISCMR (international multidisciplinary scientific organization established to foster the development and dissemination of new knowledge regarding whole person healing and whole systems healthcare research, including all traditional, holistic, alternative, complementary and integrative forms of medicine (TCAIM).), the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal (journal providing a credible space for publications in alternative medicine) and the Cochrane Complementary Medicine (international collaboration of health researchers and other contributors. The Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field (cam.cochrane.org) was established in 1996 to support and promote Cochrane systematic reviews of complementary, alternative, and integrative interventions). Each of these providing guidance and inspiration that can be imperative to the broader acceptance, understanding and application of muscle response testing in the future.
Challenges for kinesiologists wanting to demonstrate the efficacy, accuracy and safety of muscle response testing include: finding financing of studies, lack of experience in designing these studies and the ability to conduct them, finding control groups, establishing good collaboration with medical doctors or medical services to collaborate with the design and input of the studies, to name but a few. However, our interview with Dr Anne Jensen shows that studies can be conducted, and that there is good will and intention for more studies to be conducted in the future.
Standardised data collection, patient case studies and well-designed studies are urgently needed within our field of muscle response testing. The results and evidence of these will provide reliable data and knowledge about the efficacy and safety of our professions treatment, and therefore allow doctors, therapists and patients to make informed decisions about the treatment they are being offered.
This is why Knowlative is working hard to develop a network of practitioners that can share their experience, knowledge and data. We are also planning and developing a data collection tool that we hope will allow all members to be able to standardise their patient data collection in a safe and secure system, eventually allowing retrospective studies to be performed.
By pooling our knowledge and experience, we really can ensure the best treatment outcomes for our clients, and an increased acceptance among peers in the healthcare profession.