Smartphones are the most popular scapegoat of a modern hypochondriac: they have been blamed for our problems sleeping, socializing, and focusing. Recently, the coverage of a scientific study has shown that extending to read a smartphone can even contribute to the growth of "horny" bone spurs at the skull base.
If you're skeptical, you have good reasons: Scientists and journalists have touted the study because of their dubious practices that examined X-rays for signs of tilted necks and skull spurs. There is much to dispute in the design and conclusions of the paper. Apart from science itself, there is another reason to question the paper's conclusion: the main author's business ventures.
This doctor is Shahar, who along with his spouse and business associate a so-called "epidemic of bad posture" digitally handled postural analyzes and on-site X-rays. In an email to Quartz, Shahar refused to comment when asked directly if the participants would come through his practice. Instead, he said that about half of the young adults in his "original research were asymptomatic participants recruited by another researcher for another project," but did not report their specific age or number of participants.
If you want to get a glimpse into the impact of smartphone use on neck health, you should use data from the general population, not from people already worried about neck or back pain. The paper acknowledges this problem and excludes all patients who reported severe neck pain. However, it does not mean that the patients came from Shahar's personal practice, which may have distorted the data because they explicitly asked for help with their posture.
Shahar is also the creator of Dr. Products related to Forward Head Posture. In one section, users learn how to "do their best and feel best" in three easy steps. These include watching a video of Shahar, downloading exercises at home, and sleeping with a chest pillow protected and sold by Shahar for $ 195.
] Most scientific publications require researchers to disclose financial conflicts. Scientific Reports, the peer-reviewed open access journal that published Shahar's work, is no exception. His policy requires authors to report anything that "directly undermines or undermines the objectivity, integrity, and value of a publication." Shahar stated that he had no competing interests.
As Quartz Posture visited on June 21st In the US, the Products section was empty. However, the Australian link shows that the breast pad is available for purchase. It seems possible that Shahar could earn money by buying products for posture issues – the US product page was not online until 2016 – or gained notoriety.
When questioned about this conflict of interest, Shahar said to Quartz, "I've been largely inactive. In the years of my research, I've been inactive and no particularly-related intervention methods are discussed in this research. "Nevertheless, in one section of the discussion section of the paper, it says:" Reducing posture deficits through preventive interventions can be prudent. "
It is important to understand if and how technology can change our body. It is also important to note what motivates research into these questions and influences data analysis. In this case, the conclusion of the study did not match the reported results – a bizarre fact that some news agencies and individuals have taken up.
Business relationships do not automatically distort the conclusions of a scientist. But they should always be a red flag for technology users who want to make healthy choices in a world exposed to more profitable posture panics.