Complementary and alternative medicine
With recently revised guidelines recommending that people with low back pain not take medication, it’s natural to wonder: what should I do, then? There are many options, among them heat, massage, yoga, and acupuncture.
The benefits of yoga for the body and mind are well documented. If you have been thinking about trying yoga, this simple routine includes breathing techniques, movement, and beginners meditation and will help you start your day.
Though some people surely benefit from acupuncture for the treatment of pain, its drawbacks (cost, length of treatment sessions, short duration of relief) mean that it may be a less effective choice than physical therapy or a medication.
Sometimes a home remedy (one making use of inexpensive items already on hand or easy to obtain) can be as effective as a medical treatment, and far less costly. Because seemingly benign home remedies can have dangerous side effects you may want to check with your doctor to see if there are any risks involved.
The history of medicine is filled with remedies that were relied upon for hundreds of years until they were eventually proven ineffective or possibly even dangerous, while legitimate practices and treatments were disregarded or ridiculed until evidence outweighed skepticism. The bottom line is that medical interventions — from tests to treatments — should neither be recommended nor condemned without considering and weighing the evidence. A future post will discuss what physicians look for when evaluating “the evidence.”
Interacting with animals can be helpful to people dealing with issues like anxiety and depression. Animal-assisted therapy is used in settings such as retirement communities and hospitals, and can be helpful for those affected by traumatic events.
A study of participants in a mindfulness workshop found that the benefits of meditation and yoga are as significant as the relaxation benefit of taking a vacation, and are more persistent. In addition, regularly practicing meditation and yoga can boost immunity, and seems to promote healthier aging.
Despite a lack of conclusive evidence, millions of Americans take glucosamine, chondroitin, or both for joint protection or relief from arthritis pain. While these supplements are considered safe, they are not regulated the way prescription drugs are and can cause side effects.
The ancient practice of cupping received attention during the summer’s Olympic games. This application of suction to the skin is supposed to promote healing of sore muscles, but precisely how it helps remains unclear. Most experts agree that cupping is safe. As long as those treated don’t mind the circular discolorations, side effects tend to be limited to the pinch experienced during skin suction.
You may have heard of the “placebo effect,” in which people taking an inactive drug as part of a study actually experience an improvement in their symptoms. As it turns out, the placebo effect still exists if you tell people they’re taking a placebo. This “open-label placebo” strategy doesn’t work for every condition, of course, but it’s a promising way to relieve many common symptoms without medication.