Get out your baloney detection kit. On Gwyneth Paltrow’s rather bizarrely and hilariously named website, Goop, she links to a product from the company Body Vibes. The product, in the company’s own words, is a smart sticker “programmed to deliver natural bio-frequencies to optimize brain and body functions, restore missing cell communication, and accelerate the body’s natural ability to heal itself.” On physical therapy social media circles, there have been posts and advertisements about a similar product, named amino neurofrequency therapy or amino biofrequency therapy. The purveyors of these stickers make similarly boundless claims; these will help for any given problem or therapeutic goal you might be interested in addressing. If you explore a bit further, frequency patch therapy has all the tropes of a classic pseudoscientific treatment. I discussed a few of these in a previous post, and like craniosacral therapy, frequency patch therapy checks off all of the boxes of my unofficial “Warrants Skepticism” list.
- They provide a vague, scientific-sounding explanation of what the treatment actually does. They suggest that all of the body’s functions are controlled by “frequencies,” and that these frequencies are really what needs fixing for any disease or condition. By utilizing these patches, you can correct the frequencies and solve any problem. Describing it this way has a few advantages; it sounds plausible for the average person without any medical training, but it is ambiguous enough to not be nailed down as to exactly how it works. For those being treated with real medical approaches that have not had success, “altered frequencies” throughout the body are a (made-up) problem that can be addressed. It represents the possibility of something that was missed, and provides a (dubious) explanation of what went wrong.
- Because its explanation is so vague, it can be connected to any problem a person has. There is literally no condition that they can’t help for. They “work” for acute or chronic musculoskeletal pain of all types, neurological conditions, cardiovascular conditions, and even psychological conditions. You can also find testimonials and anecdotal accounts of frequency patches being able to help with conditions that are extremely disabling, associated with a significant amount of medical uncertainty, or being very emotionally challenging to manage, including strokes, spinal cord injuries, immune disorders, depression, lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and migraines among others. By marketing this therapy towards conditions that are difficult to manage, they can fill a void that real medicine has not been able to fill just yet. They provide a facade of certainty in a world full of uncertainty and open their market to literally everyone.
- There is a distinct lack of research. A complete research review is not hard to do, because there is none to find. I was unable to find any research studies of any type that looked at these products. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and extraordinary claims about medical products require robust, placebo-controlled clinical trials that are peer-reviewed and available for analysis. The purveyors of these treatments only have patient testimonials and anecdotal evidence in support of all the benefits they claim. A YouTube search will have way more results than one on PubMed; try it! A healthcare practitioner does not have the right to be as confident as these people are without the science to back it up. The science often does have to play catch-up with clinical practice, but the goal should be to have some unbiased support for it, and there is no indication this is on its way. Even when I personally inquired about any clinical trials under way or any studies they published by one particular group, it was only suggested that the research would be a “waste.”
- There is a course near you! At every instance possible, including all over their websites, on their social media posts, and on personal emails, there are links and information about where to sign up for a course. There are courses all over the world, and the courses certainly are not cheap.
New treatments and therapies of this nature need to be regarded with strong skepticism. I would be just as happy as anyone to have a new treatment technique to work with, especially for those extremely challenging cases. I have treated patients with spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, and others. It is heartbreaking and frustrating to see patients struggle with progressive, debilitating disease and to be extremely limited with sound, effective options. However, it is insulting to see a therapy that is promulgated without the appropriate amount of vetting or scientific testing that is now the standard in medicine. It is especially egregious to market this treatment to patient populations where real medicine has not yet found its way. The entire world of musculoskeletal healthcare is devalued when treatments like this infiltrate it, and evidence-based practitioners ought to be calling out the nonsense. Give me a clinical trial. Put your products to a fair test, and then we can talk about the results. Hitchen’s razor cuts swiftly; the claims put forth here, without any supporting evidence, are easily dismissed.