DIY Check Up: When to Consider Alternative Care

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An acupuncture session. (flickr: Natashalatrasha)

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 40 percent of Americans use some form of medicine deemed "alternative" or "complimentary" to established medicine. We discuss four popular forms: acupuncture, chiropractics, osteopathy and homeopathy. 

Kate Dailey, health editor for Newsweek, helps us unpack which forms of alternative medicine have been shown to help patients when conventional medicine has failed. Dr. Jack Killen, deputy director of the Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health says there's a long history of practices once called "alternative" that have entered the mainstream, like hospice care or Lamaze birthing classes. The scientific community eventually works to find out why or exactly how these therapies help patients.

Do you find acupuncture, chiropractics, osteopathy or homeopathy helpful in your overall health regimen?  Or are you skeptical of these treatments?


Kate Dailey and Dr. Jack Killen

Produced by:

Jen Poyant

Comments [6]

Jason from Pittsburgh, PA

Alternative medicine is the way of the future. In most polls, more than 60% of people seek out some form of alternative medicine.

Oct. 18 2010 03:26 PM
Ken D from Brooklyn NY

A very disappointing segment, in my opinion. People's health is at stake here and this brief discussion offered no evidence beyond a few vague generalities that alt-med "might be helpful sometimes..." And to my ear the overall tone of the piece said "hey, this stuff works!"
Stories like this are at best a disservice to patients and at worse an endorsement of unproven and possibly dangerous treatments.

Perhaps a reality-based segment would provide the needed counterbalance... any of the doctors contributing to the blog could provide valuable — and evidence-backed — information.

Aug. 10 2010 09:03 PM
Eman from NYC

I have lupus and nerve damage because of it and I find that alternative meds have been way more helpful than anything the Rheumatologists have done for me. Acupuncture and natural vitamins, yoga, meditation, having a specific diet, etc has helped get more feeling and movement in my legs and hands. Rheumi's gave me steroids and chemo that weakened me even more and dont help. Bu thats me, who knows what would help others.

Aug. 10 2010 08:59 AM
Dr. Neil from Gloucester, Mass

What is alternative medicine?
It is a recognition of the limits of the bio-medical model of medicine.

It is an alternative source of patient trust that regular doctors have ceded in exchange for wealth and status.
Trust in your doctor makes you feel better.

It is an alternative source of hope for patients with chronic diseases for whom conventional medicine has no definitive answers.
Hope (a daily positive action or thought) makes chronic illness physically and mentally tolerable.

Alternative practitioners give you all the face time and support you need (for $120/hr).
Alternative practitioners never say no. There is always another special supplement, another thing to try from the internet and another thing a friend of a friend said worked for them.

When you have patient trust and can give hope to patients who feel powerless in the face of chronic illness, efficacy considerations are secondary. The placebo effect is all you need.

Few are cured but most feel better and feel empowered. That is a benign acceptable outcome that doctors have ignored at their peril. It built a billion dollar alternative medicine industry (supplements, acupuncture, energy healing, chiropractic etc) that helped many people, lowered the credulity of the public and opened the door to scam artists and quacks (e.g. homeopathy).

Thousands of alternative practitioners succeed with a trusting personality, personal referrals, and the 20% placebo efficacy. It’s human nature. It’s filling a real need for people with chronic incurable disease.
Doctors need to wake up, turn toward their patients and away from bio-medical, money centered medicine.

Aug. 10 2010 07:57 AM
Fred from Brooklyn

I utilized many methods of traditional and alternative treatment for debilitating back, hip, and leg pain for nearly a decade. While many offered temporary relief, my condition did not cease until I applied the methods of Dr. John Sarno. I have been pretty much pain free for four years. His book " The Mindybody Perscription" changed my life, especially my outlook on health. I no longer require any kind of treatment for this condition.

Aug. 10 2010 07:30 AM
Diane Echlin from Charleston, SC

I have used acupuncture, but I rely on Chiropractic and Therapeutic massage to manage chronic pain. Choosing these remedies over a lifetime of prescription pain killers is a no-brainer for me, and they both address root causes of pain rather than simply masking the symptoms for a few hours.

Aug. 10 2010 06:18 AM

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