YouTube Videos Often Wrong on Neuropathic Pain Advice

December 9, 2015
Rachel Lutz

Researchers say that patients using YouTube videos to obtain advice about their peripheral nerve pain are being misguided about half of the time.

Patients using YouTube videos to obtain advice about their peripheral nerve pain are being misguided about half of the time, according to a study published in Muscle & Nerve.

Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences combed through the internet in order to systematically review the information on YouTube about peripheral neuropathy. The researchers added that this study is the first of its kind, as no other study has evaluated the information disseminated by YouTube videos about peripheral neuropathy — even though it can be an important resource for patients. From September 19 to 21, 2014, the researchers used terms like “neuropathy,” “peripheral neuropathy,” “diabetic neuropathy,” “neuropathy causes,” and “neuropathy treatment” to locate, watch, and evaluate videos.

Of about 200 videos discovered by the researchers, only about half of them were made by healthcare professionals (44 percent), and those videos were mostly made by chiropractors (44 percent). The most frequently cited neuropathic pain treatment option was alternative medicine (recommended by 37 percent of 145 videos), followed by devices (recommended by 26 percent of the total videos) and pharmacological treatments (16 percent), the researchers added.

“Caution should be exercised when YouTube videos are used as a source of information for the treatment of neuropathy,” the study’s lead author, Harsh Gupta, MD, commented in a press release. “With the ever increasing reach of YouTube to our patients, a stronger presence of neurologists in this social medium is needed.”

The researchers found that the minority of treatment options were aligned with recommendations for the American Academy of Neurology.

“Currently there is a shortage of neurologists nationwide,” Gupta told Reuters Health. “Without the in depth knowledge in neuropathy as neurologists, other specialties may not be able to answer the patients' concerns or questions. With the wide availability of YouTube, it is not surprising for the patients to turn to YouTube when their questions or needs are not met.”

Instead, the research team recommends that patients at least start by looking at the American Academy of Neurology website. There, patients can search for their specific symptoms and read over guidelines recommended by the organization.