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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Preliminary Statistical Project about Magnets and Pain Relief

To begin, there is an experiment done by Carlos Vallbona about magnets and pain relief with the question “Can the chronic pain experienced by post-polio patients be relieved by magnetic fields applied directly over an identified trigger point?” There were a couple of questions concerning the study done by Vallbona, which included: Does the data support or refute the claim that active magnets relieve pain? What is known about population (the group the collected data is intended to describe), population parameters (a value calculated using all the data from the entire population), sample (a smaller subset of the entire population, ideally one that is fairly representative of the whole population), sample statistics, and bias (in favor or against something, unfair)? How representative is the data presented for determining whether magnets actually relieve pain? Is there anything that needs to be changed to make this study more representative and believable? To answer these questions, I have observed the data of Carlos Vallbona’s experiment that recruited 50 patients who had post-polio syndrome and muscular or arthritic pain.

Looking at the histograms and the data charts, the data supports the claim that magnets relieve pain. As was seen in the active magnets data, there is more change between the pre and post data from using active magnets than there is using the placebos. When looking only at the histograms, you could tell right away that magnets relieve pain since the change is higher with the active magnets than with the placebos. In other words, most of the people who used the placebos experienced little to no change of pain. On the contrary, many of the participants who used the active magnets experienced more change in their levels of pain. When taking a look at the range of both active magnet and placebo data, you could tell that active magnets relieve more pain since the range is ten and the range for those using placebos is five. As I’ve already mentioned, this shows that active magnets relieve more pain than placebos, but they don’t help all people because there were some participants who had no change at all, but most of them did.

Now, the population of this experiment are patients who have post-polio syndrome and also have either muscular or arthritic pain. Out of the many people who have this type of pain, 50 people, which is the sample size of the population who has post-polio syndrome and muscular or arthritic pain, were recruited to be treated with an active magnetic device or with an inactive device. The 50 patients were equally divided, half of the patients were treated with the active magnetic device and half with an inactive device. Out of the 50 people, 29 were tested with the active magnets and 21 were tested with the inactive device also known as the placebos. These two sizes should’ve been equal, but they weren’t, which makes this experiment biased. It’s important to note that the placebos really had no effect. I believe that the results of this experiment also had to do with what the patient thought about this experiment because from what I’ve learned, the placebo effect has to do with the “patient’s perception of how effective they think the treatment will be, so a result might be seen even if the treatment is ineffectual.” In the active magnet data change, 23/29 who tested had a change of 4 or higher, that is equal to 79.3%. On the other hand, those who tested with the placebos only 4/21 experienced a change of 3 or higher, that is 19%, which is much less than those who were tested with active magnets. Altogether, 27/50 experienced a change of 3 or higher with either active magnets (23/50 = 46%) or placebos (4/50 = 8%). With the parameters of this experiment, there are some assumptions that we may have including that every patient has pain or that they all have the same level of pain in the beginning, but it’s all different.

Next, the data is representative for determining whether magnets actually relieve pain. First of all, there wasn’t one patient who experienced more pain than they already had, they either stayed the same or felt less pain. In other words, patients either saw no difference or saw improvement within their pain level, but none of them ever saw more pain than they already had. I believe that it is worth taking this treatment since more than half of the patients felt better afterwards. As I’ve already mentioned, 79.3% of the patients who tested with active magnets had a change of 4 or higher, showing that they do relieve pain. However, this experiment does have some bias. It’s biased in the sense that the patient’s thoughts on the treatment could affect the experiment, one’s opinion can really affect the experiment. Since their opinion affects the experiment, it could fall under response bias. Some patients could’ve just given a number without really knowing what was going on. I also feel like they are in favor of the treatment using magnetic devices just because of the data that was given. Also, although it’s not one hundred percent realistic, there are things that make it realistic.

Equally important, to make this study more representative and believable, I would increase the sample size of patients to about 100 people because I believe 50 is too small. I don’t think I would increase it to more than 100 because of how much it would cost. Before thinking about the size of people that you want to conduct an experiment on, you have to think about the additional cost it would take. It would cost a lot more with more people, but it benefits them because they’ll actually know if it works and how to decrease the pain of many people who have post-polio with either muscular or arthritic pain. Another thing, I believe that should be done is to only treat the patients with the magnetic devices and not the placebos. Only treating the patients with the magnetic devices would make others really believe that they actually work. I would also conduct the experiment multiple times to make it more believable because one time is not enough. It would also be good to include some of the thoughts of the patients in the experiment or if they felt as if it really does work. Reducing bias would also make this study more representative and believable because it seems like they are in favor of active magnetic devices, since there were more patients who were tested with active magnetic devices than placebos. Lastly, I would continue doing this experiment for more days to see if there is more change or less change by using active magnetic devices.

In conclusion, more participants reported that they felt less pain when treated with active magnetic devices than those who were treated with placebos. Although there were more participants who felt less pain, there were others that had no change with the level of pain they had. Besides that, without taking a look at the histograms and only looking at the change from the data numbers, you could tell that the active magnets did make a difference for many of the patients who were in this experiment. However, there are certain things that could be done in the future to make this experiment more representative and believable. Some of those things include: increasing the sample size, only using magnetic devices, conducting the experiment more than one time, decreasing bias, including patient viewpoints, and continuing with the experiment for a little longer.

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