In that spirit (my addition in brackets), note the lead of this article:
Lateral wedge shoe inserts don’t appear to relieve knee pain in patients suffering osteoarthritis of the knee [that happens to be on the inner part of the joint], a new study finds.Now, this wasn’t just any old study. Rather, it was the more powerful variety: a “meta-analysis” of existing studies. Such a review is potent, when done well, as those conducting it can choose to discount or disregard studies that are somehow flawed, leaving them to analyze the highest quality data. So the findings of a meta-analysis generally should carry more weight.
Why in the first place did anyone think lateral wedge shoe inserts would relieve knee pain?
Well, the thinking goes like this:
A wedge for the outer part of the foot will reduce the load on the inner part of the foot (and hence the inner part of the knee joint). Simple enough. And not such a far-fetched notion. It reminds me of the argument for kneecap taping to remove some stress from the injured area.
But when the researchers evaluated 12 studies involving 885 subjects, they found no proof that lateral wedges, inserted in shoes, were effective for knee osteoarthritis. So now you can save $10 to $500 (the price for wedges, from the cheapest off-the-shelf insoles to an expensive customized pair).
However, it may still make sense for doctors to recommend the inserts on a “case-by-case” basis, says Robert Shmerling, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Even though the average response was no different between wedge insole users and non-users, individual response can vary.”
Yup. I’m a science-minded guy, but he’s got a point. Treatments that don’t work for 99 percent of us may work for some people in the other 1 percent.
For example, evidence is building that glucosamine is probably ineffective, yet some people still claim to be unable to function without it. I recently complained about physical therapists who prescribe one-legged squats for weak knees, which I think is pretty stupid, but a commenter said doing one-legged squats fixed his ailing knees. If someone were to advise knee pain sufferers not to do jumping jacks while wearing a backpack full of lead, I’m sure someone else would protest that he healed his bad knees by doing jumping jacks while wearing a backpack full of lead.
When it comes to ways to beat knee pain, it just goes to show you can never say never.