Tuesday, November 06, 2007

There's No Such Thing as "Alternative Medicine"

Well... there is, but I don't think you really want to mess around with it. "Try applying this simple test–when you have crushing chest pain and shortness of breath, who do you want to call: the GNC guy or an ambulance?"

I read this article entitled "Alternative Medicine Redux" at a blog I visit occasionally. I like spending a little time at blogs written by actual professionals in the various fields of science. Some of them actually write as well as "WE" do! And since they are writing, with technical knowledge, about subjects that are both fascinating and valuable to learn more about, I pop in and out at places like The Whitecoat Underground, from which I bring you this article about homeopathy, chelation therapy and other so-called alternative treatments.

This particular post really hit a chord with me because I've been dealing with my wife and her friend and their bizarre fascination with homeopathy. They haven't listened to me (idiot that I am) so I sent this article to them in the hopes that someone else might make headway. Here's how this article starts. I hope you'll find it interesting enough to go read the full post.

The secret answer is that there is no such thing as alternative medicine. You don’t believe me? Why not–I am a doctor…

There are several ways to define alternative medicine, and sometimes it is contrasted with “complementary medicine”. CM refers to treatments that “compliment” traditional medicine, while AM refers to treatments that stand in the stead of mainstream medicine. CAM is a broad category used to refer to both.

So what’s my problem? How can I say that there is no such thing?

Because “mainstream” medicine is medicine that works. It has been studied, tested, deployed, followed, and it is proven to do what it says. Alternative medicine is any treatment that is not yet, or may never be, mainstream. If it is found to work, it becomes mainstream very rapidly. If it is not proven to work, it remains “alternative”.

So, I guess there is, after all, such a thing as alternative medicine. It is any treatment that doesn’t work. Why would anyone want that? Alternative Medicine Redux


homar said...

thanks, my bretheren in disbelief. i wish we, atheists, could hav our support group similar to alcoholic anonymous or something like that. i guess i am still in the process of withdrawal. yes, i do agree that there is no such thing as alternative medicine especially ehn it comes to psychological maladies such as theism. thanks for the visit and the words of encouragement. hail to the invisible pink unicorn! well, not unless you are a member of the church of the flying spaghetti monster...

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Well, since medicine is just an subbranch of science in general, it only makes sense that medicine that works (i.e.has been shown in most cases to be effective) would be mainstream, much like mainstream science is that science which has been shown, through experiments and testing to be the best explanation for any particular set of facts.

PhillyChief said...

I have mixed feelings about this. Both my wife and I suffer from muscle spasms. Mine strike my trapezius so bad that I can't turn my head. I've gone to the emergency room over it. Mainstream medicine's answer - muscle relaxers. Now don't get me wrong, they can be fun, but that's not helping me get back to work. What has helped is acupuncture and for me, this crazy guy (scroll down the page) walking on my back.

Now certainly I'm not going to buy into magnets, crystals or eating tiger penis as a cure for anything, but there are alternatives out there. I agree that if something is tested and proven to work it will become mainstream, but I don't think everything gets fairly tested or tested at all. The reasons I think are both scoffing at them by doctors and of course the greatest evil to our health, HMOs.

Note - some insurance companies recognize massage as a medical treatment, but most don't and I've never had a doctor suggest or prescribe massage. Instead they always reach for the RX pad.

John Evo-Mid said...

I figured some of my friends would disagree with me on this. I'm not saying that NOTHING but mainstream medicine can help various conditions (many medicines were developed based on the successes of folk remedy).

BUT... honestly, they DO get a fair test. The tests are designed to find failure. That doesn't make them unfair.

Every widespread claim either has had or will have extensive testing - random sample, double blind, control group testing. If you read the post by Whitecoat Underground you will see that many things have a "positive" result due to the well documented "placebo effect", but when the double-blind is employed the results of "success" become completely random.

I'm going to post a couple of videos you should check out.

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