Alternative Therapies: Good or bad?


Alternative Therapy Options

Parts of this post are from the page http://www.nationalmssociety.org/site/PageServer?pagename=HOM_LIB_brochures_clear_thinking

alttherapy.jpg

Many people are jumping on the alternative therapies bandwagon. There have always been options for MS patients: bee sting therapy (ouch!) is an old one, but some new thoughts areacupuncture, aromatherapy, Ayurvedic medicine, biofeedback, chiropractic, guided imagery, herbal medicine, homeopathy, hypnosis, hypnotherapy, iridology, macrobiotics, naturopathy, reflexology, relaxation techniques, traditional Chinese medicine, yoga, “touch therapy”, and various schools of massage, among others. (Clear Thinking About Alternative Therapies, Virginia Foster with a contribution by Ellen Burstein MacFarlane)

Controversy is alive and well regarding alternative therapies. The ones who are for it argue that the supporters of conventional medication are suppressing the information about the good that alternative therapies can do.

Opponents of alternative therapies insist that western medicine uses whatever therapies can be scientifically proven to be safe and effective. They want to see the scientific evidence to support of the claims of alternative therapy supporters. They feel that alternative advocates act and use remedies that are not proven and may not be applicable to the specific malady.

But people are getting frustrated with the treatments that are available for MS, and some people want something that will help them, something that they can see the results. In this health-conscious age, people want to be more involved in their health and well-being. In fact, most doctors encourage this lifestyle. This involves watching their diet, exercising, and alleviating stress. From here, the leap to alternative therapies is not long.

If an alternative treatment appears to be harmless, many people feel it’s worth a try. “What do I have to lose?” is the thought. “I can go to my local store and buy some herbs, teas, etc., and start my way to a healthy life!”

But there is plenty to lose if you look for a ‘quick fix’ and ignore the words of your doctor or trained professional. You can end up spending large amounts of money and time on therapies that just don’t work, or are harmful. Some users become so fixated on alternative therapies, they decide to forgo the traditional medicines that are proven effective against MS progression.

A great brochure has been produced for the MS community, but can apply to anyone: Clear Thinking About Alternative Therapies, Virginia Foster with a contribution by Ellen Burstein MacFarlane

This brochure will give you up-to-date information about therapies and how to manage them along with your current treatment.

You can be pro-active in your treatment and your health. But do your homework first.

This is a chart telling Fact and Fiction from the brochure:

Fiction: Alternative medicine is completely natural and nontoxic.
Fact: Not all alternative therapies use natural substances. And even a natural substance can be toxic. Remember, poison ivy is completely natural.
 
Fiction: Alternative medicine is non-invasive and painless.
Fact: Some alternative therapies are invasive, painful, and may produce serious side effects. Examples include chelation therapy, colonic irrigation, or use of highly laxative herbal preparations.
 
Fiction: Alternative medicine is risk-free.
Fact: Every test, treatment, therapy, and medication—whether conventional or alternative—carries some degree of risk. The question is, do the benefits outweigh the risk? Only well-conducted, scientific studies or documented clinical experience can determine this.
 
Fiction: If a person improves while using a treatment, that means it works.
Fact: It’s always good news when someone’s condition improves. However, the improvement may be due to the natural course of the disease, not to the treatment. Remember, MS is famously variable. It can stabilize for no known reason at any time. Or, the placebo effect may be responsible.
 
Fiction: Conventional medicine has all the answers.
Fact: This is not the case. Conventional medicine has not fully documented many of the treatments it currently uses. Doctors do not always know how or why some treatments work, but they use them anyhow.
 
Fiction: Conventional physicians reject alternative medicine.
Fact: Today, the term complementary medicine is used by mainstream physicians for alternative regimens or therapies chosen by their patients. These therapies complement but do not replace the conventional treatment plan. A growing number of physicians are interested in this approach.Some MDs refer patients to alternative medical practitioners. Some even administer complementary treatments themselves. And a few nonconventional therapies, such as meditation, have been tested, found to have some positive effects, and are becoming accepted by mainstream medicine.
 
Fiction: Alternative medicine is inexpensive and protects people from profiteering corporations.
Fact: It is possible to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on alternative medicine. The nutritional supplement business is a multimillion dollar industry, with firms both large and small vigorously marketing their products.

The best advice when considering alternative therapy? Gather information. Carefully and thoroughly inquire about any therapy you are considering and ask your doctor. Keep asking questions until you get the answers you need. This is the only way to fully understand what you are getting into. Ask:

  • What does the treatment involve?
  • How and why is it supposed to work?
  • How effective is it?
  • What are the risks?
  • How much does it cost?

Once you have the answers, you can balance the treatment’s purported benefits against the risks it may pose.

REFERENCES

Web sites

  • The National MS Society offers local referrals, education programs, counseling, self-help groups, and other booklets and brochures on MS.
  • Regularly updated information focused on CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) and MS is available on an interactive Web site at www.ms-cam.org. This site is managed by the Rocky Mountain MS Center.

Non-technical books>
There are many non-technical books on CAM. One book that specifically deals with CAM and MS is:

  • Bowling A.C. Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2001. Web site: www.demosmedpub.com. Tel: 800-532-8663.

Other non-technical books with objective general information on dietary supplements and CAM are:

    Dillard J., Ziporyn T. Alternative Medicine for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., 1998. Steven Foster and Varro E. Tyler, PhD, Tyler’s Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press. Web site: www.haworthpressinc.com. Tel: 800-HAWORTH.

Note: The above-mentioned books may be available for loan at your local chapter of the National MS Society, or at your public library.

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