Intended for healthcare professionals


The subtleties of medicine

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 02 May 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:0

Medicine is a subtle and complicated business, and the subtleties and complications probably come though more strongly in interactions with patients than in medical journals. After all, fact is stranger than fiction. But the subtleties of medicine are there in journals for those (perhaps not many) with time to reflect on scientific papers.

Consider, first, the study from England that looks at what happens to patients with low back pain (p 1356). Journals and textbooks say that “80-90% of attacks of low back pain recover in about six weeks, irrespective of the administration or type of …

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