Avoid Shiny New Toy Syndrome | A Guide for Physiotherapists

Before you try out that new treatment technique make sure you aren’t suffering from shiny new toy syndrome.

For a physio shiny new toy syndrome (SNTS) is characterised by wanting to employ the latest treatment techniques or use the latest piece of equipment  with the hope that they will bring you the treatment outcomes of your dreams and make you look like a hero in front of your patients and colleagues.

The concept is often used in the tech world or software space where a new laptop, phone or productivity app promises to transform your life and turn you into a super successful person. Common examples include; the latest iPad will turn you into a super creative person and, that new productivity app will give you more time to do the things you love doing. All noble aims but these are often short lived and these items or apps are thrown onto the shiny new toy grave yard (popularised by Rad Reads).

We see this in the exercise space too often in the form of shortcuts to long term difficult to achieve aspirational goals. Common examples include the latest diet that will make you lose weight quicker then ever before or a new ab exercise that will quickly give you the six pack of your dreams and make you look like Ryan Reynolds. As with all examples of SNTS syndrome it isn’t the item that will transform you life it is the habits, beliefs and basic principles which will transform your life.

This goes for patients lives too, not just our own. If you want to transform their lives it won’t be the latest shiny toy that does it. It will be your therapeutic relationship, your advice, education and exercise choices that does. It’s not the magic theragun that is the hero of our profession, the evidence based basics are, and will always continue to be our ultimate choice.

The idea isn’t to limit your creativity or stop you seeking new treatment choices or optons. The brain is actually wired to make us seek new and exciting things. The aim is to question the reasoning behind your decisions and think about what is most important to your career and your patients. Often it is the simple hard-fought basics which make the most difference.

How To Avoid SNTS

Before diving into a new treatment technique make sure you’re onto a winner by considering each of these steps.

  1. Where did you hear about the technique or equipment. Often a new fad or sketchy treatment technique will try and gain traction through social media with hero posts or predatory journals. Think along the lines of YouTube videos of manual therapy techniques which have sensational clicking noises or Theragun with ringing celebrity endorsements on Instagram. Oftentime sensational headlines and overstated benefits are too good to be true.
  2. Consider the mechanisms of action. If you can’t propose a logical and realistic way the treatment works then there is probably a reason for that… it doesn’t actually work. Yes you can get caught in the placebo vs control vs sham treatment debate but it is up to you to decide wha type of clinician you want to be.
  3. Read the evidence base. Is there any randomised control trials deomnstrating the treatments effectiveness against controls? Is there even a case control study supporting it’s use? Make sure you read, appraise and understand the evidence before diving into a treatment. Being an evidence based clinician is actually very difficult but it is something we all need to do to protec our patients and our professional integrity.
  4. Discuss with a colleague you trust. We’ve all got a colleage who we go to for a sense check of the latest evidence. Use their expertise if in doubt and whilst you are there you can always ask where they get there evidence from and ensure you stay on the path of truth from there on out!

It’s difficult to avoid shiny new toy syndrome and there is certainly nothing wrong with being an early adopter of a new treatment technique. Just make sure it isn’t a fad and make sure you go through the steps above to ensure you’re onto a winner.

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