While going about my business the other day, I came across SCENAR in a facebook entry by a member of the family, who claimed that after a SCENAR therapy treatment their shoulder was now back to normal.
Having been on the receiving end of therapies for a lot of sporting injuries over many years, I was surprised not to have heard of this one, so I once again enrolled into the University of Google, the institution in which everyone is an expert, or so they think.
So, I now know that SCENAR basically involves applying a small current that gives a tingling sensation in muscles. That’s it. While this sort of thing has been done for years by physiotherapists to assist with soft tissue injuries, this version is just a cheap and nasty copy. The most common devices are like a mobile phone, and give out a tiny tingle, which couldn’t possibly have any real effect on body tissue. I’ve also found out that it was developed for the Russian space program. Now I’m really impressed.
And no, I’m not going to take you on an Elmore-esque adventure. Although it’s tempting, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Another blogger summarised it pretty well here.
Suffice to say that this has all the same hallmarks as Elmore; in fact the techniques are almost identical. Rather than do another expose on this shifty therapy, let’s take a look at the common traits of these scams.
1. Post hoc ergo propter hoc
Are you impressed? Translated, this most common logical fallacy means ‘after this, therefore because of this’, and is common when correlation is confused with causation. In this case, someone uses SCENAR on their shoulder, which then gets better, and they assume it’s the SCENAR. All they can really say is that the improvement happened after the SCENAR, not because of it. For SCENAR, we could substitute Elmore Oil, laser hair growth therapy, reiki, chiropractic, homeopathic remedies, The Secret, etc etc – you get the idea. Typically, whatever the ailment, it heals itself, or else goes through natural cycles – as in the case of, say, hair loss and cancer progression.
2. Extraordinary claims – low evidence
We’ve talked about this before, but it’s all too common. On one hand, the claims being made are breath-taking. Look at this for instance. Don’t be over-whelmed by this table – just look at the range of ailments, and the % cured column. Pretty impressive right? If this is correct, then we really don’t need doctors any more, do we? I wonder why this societal shift hasn’t happened yet? Why are we still training doctors, rather than pumping out SCENAR device operators?
On the other hand, the evidence to support these grandiose claims is pitiful. There’s an impressive list of references here, but inspection reveals that really only one ‘trial’ of any note has been done, with the conclusion that:
“Due to the modest sample size and restricted cohort characteristics,future larger and more comprehensive trials are required to better evaluate the potential efficacy of the ENAR device in a more widely distributed sample population”
And that’s it. That’s the evidence, unless you include countless testimonials. Elmore anyone?
This leads on to our third trait.
3. The Research Bypass
See my recent blog on this one. Basically, proponents do some dodgy preliminary trials, which inevitably show a benefit due to either the placebo effect or cherry picking of data, and then publish, with no intention of every doing proper trials. This way, they can cite ‘clinical trials’, and have a nice, official-looking footnote.
4. It’s gotta be old or foreign
Like all good alternative therapies, religions and fairy tales, they are represented as being one or both of old, and foreign. Notice that any reference to something being ‘new’ or ‘locally invented’ is no-no. Having both of these attributes would seem to be the kiss of death. There are favourites – ancient chinese/oriental seems to be popular, (it scores on both attributes), while SCENAR is exotically Russian. Chiropractic and Homeopathy are both 19th century. Ear candling is allegedly a practice of the Hopi tribe of native Americans. I could go on.
5. Adopted by dubious professions
It seems that bogus therapies are typically favoured by those professions which have no real basis to them – chiropractic being a good example. They seem to adopt various practices to complement whatever it is that they learn in university – applied kinesiology, SCENAR, manipulation of energy fields, homeopathy and so on. I wonder whether it’s because the practitioners are struggling to sell whatever they do, so latch onto whatever seems good at the time, to increase their perceived expertise?
6. A rap on the knuckles
Finally, and most desirably, many bogus therapies will also have official sanctions applied for making misleading claims, but which, for some strange reason, do not make it into the public arena. This is more common than you think, thanks to the good work of the likes of Loretta Marron (the Jelly Bean lady), and Dr. Michael Vagg. For example, if you go here and type in SCENAR, you’ll get a page of recent orders against companies and individuals making claims of efficacy. While I’ve had a crack at the TGA recently, Loretta and Mick have kept them on their toes, by filing continuous complaints and ensuring that they are followed through.
Armed with this pathology of a scam, you are now in a position to spot one a mile away – so no more excuses!