Unproven, perilous alternative cures are embraced

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    Philadelphia Inquirer;
    Posted on Mon, Jun. 8, 2009



    Unproven, perilous alternative cures are embraced

    By Marilynn Marchione
    Associated Press

    BALTIMORE - At one of the nation's top trauma hospitals, a nurse circles a patient's bed, humming and waving her arms as if shooing evil spirits. Another woman rubs a quartz bowl with a wand, making tunes that blend with the beeping monitors and hissing respirator keeping the man alive.
    They are doing Reiki therapy, which claims to heal through invisible energy fields. The anesthesia chief, Richard Dutton, calls it "mystical mumbo jumbo." Still, he's a fan.
    "It's self-hypnosis" that can help patients relax, he said. "If you tell yourself you have less pain, you actually do have less pain."

    Alternative medicine has become mainstream. It is finding wider acceptance by doctors, insurers and hospitals like the shock trauma center at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
    People turn to unconventional therapies and herbal remedies for everything from hot flashes and trouble sleeping to cancer and heart disease. They crave more "care" in their health care. They distrust drug companies and the government. They want natural, safer remedies....
    classykaren, freesia29, lindarn, and 2 others like this.
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  3. 22 Comments so far...

  4. 6
    In my opinion, the main place for holistic approaches is in the preventative realm. The way we live is what makes us healthy. The food we eat, the air we breath, how we work, move, pray, those are the God-given ways to stay healthy. Also, avoiding chemical toxins, whether they are man-made or natural, will keep us fit.

    I've never been one to go for the latest healing fad of waving crystals, sleeping under pyramids, flower remedies, or the like. If people want to do it, I as a nurse will support them in their right to make their own choices for their own healthcare, however.
    RosesRN, classykaren, megalin, and 3 others like this.
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    I think they have a place in both preventive, treatment and dare I say curative arenas.
    biochemnurse2b and classykaren like this.
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    Unproven perilous mainstream cures are also embraced.

    Look at electronic fetal monitoring- does not improve outcomes while at the same time increasing morbidity in the mother. Yet it is so widely used that it is difficult for a patient to refuse it. I could easily name ten OB interventions that I see each day widely used, women are pressured and often coerced into them, and yet when someone walks in the door with a doula she is scoffed at.

    We in the medical professions tend to reject that which we are unfamiliar with yet we expect patients to submit to treatments based on our word without any scientific basis and even in the presence of science that tells us our treatments are harmful.

    Good for patients who take the time to research and choose their treatments, even if they aren't widely accepted.
    Armygirl7, Ivanna_Nurse, Michelle123, and 13 others like this.
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    My concern with the headline is that it paints all alternative therapies with too broad a brush. Alternative therapies run the gamut from Reiki to herbs to aromatherapy to Tai Chi. Many are rooted in spiritual traditions such as Native or Hindu beliefs. It's wrong to lump all non-Western types of healing together and label them "perilous" simply because we don't know exactly how (or if) they work. Goodness, how many pharmaceutical companies market drugs in which the mechanism of action is unknown? How many drugs are there that simply don't work for some people or cause dangerous side effects that can injure health or cause death?

    I also don't think there are that many people who actually eschew Western medicine completely in order to pursue alternative remedies. Yes, they make the headlines---like that boy in Minnesota whose parents refused to let him have chemotherapy because they believed solely in prayer---but that's because the vast numbers who choose Western therapies aren't particularly newsworthy. Most Westerners who use alternative therapies think of them as complementing Western medicine, not necessarily replacing it.

    Despite the sensationalistic headline, the article does have a point in that there should be regulation of alternative therapies, especially herbal remedies. There should be evidence-based, standardized doses and the public should be able to purchase herbal products with the assurance that they're getting genuine, therapeutic ingredients and not something watered down with psuedo-organic fillers. The public also needs to be made aware of interactions between prescription and OTC drugs and herbal remedies. People do risk harming themselves if they don't know or understand everything they're taking.
  8. 0
    How can a respirator keep someone alive?
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    It drives me crazy when headlines like these pop up. People don't read the whole article, or they don't read it critically, and end up thinking that all alternative therapies must be junk.

    If alternative therapies are so ineffective, why do many carry warnings that they should not be used with other traidtional meds, because it can potentiate the effect. Example: St. John's Wort and SAMe should not be taken with SSRIs because it can lead to serotonin syndrome. Why would that happen if they were not effective on some level?

    My fertility doc has pamphlets in his waiting room for an acupuncturist that specializes in fertility, and there are studies showing it leads to better IVF outcomes.

    I just don't get why the media has to either glorify or villify something - there is no middle road with them! I guess an article saying that some alternative treatments have been proven effective in some cases would be boring. Who would want to read the boring truth! :icon_roll Sorry, stepping off the soap box.
    heyitsjaii, zahryia, Moogie, and 1 other like this.
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    I'm all for complementary/alternative therapies, with one caveat, "show me your data". If a practitioner or company is going to put a therapy on the market, then by-golly, go to the effort to study how it works and if it helps. Acupuncture is easy for me to accept, there is data to show it helps. Massage therapy- okay, that makes sense. But some of this far-out stuff with crystals and "rearranging" someone's energy waves, well, there has to be some kind of explanation.
  11. 1
    "i'm all for complementary/alternative therapies, with one caveat, "show me your data""

    i 100% agree. we have data which shows that saint johns wort and same can help mild depression, so i do not consider these 'hokey'.


    FireStarterRN likes this.
  12. 1
    I agree about statistical data to back it up. But, I am willing to keep an open mind to therapies that are unproven as of yet. Research is expensive and time consuming, and if something is not harmful and seems to have benefit (even if it is the placebo effect), I say why the heck not! I do not want to see vulnerable members of the population being taken in by "miracle cures" with no proven benefit, so there has to be some balance to it. I don't want to see someone trying to sell Reiki or any therapy for an unreasonable amount of $$ in an attempt to make a quick buck. But even the doc who calls it mumbo jumbo admits it seems to work, so maybe eventually some research will be done.

    For myself at least, I usually try the natural way before resorting to anything invasive or drugs, but there is absolutely a time and place for traditional and contemporary medicine.
    indigo girl likes this.


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