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Alternative Medicine, does it work?

Alternative medicine is a term that describes medical treatments that are used instead of traditional mainstream therapies.

Some people also refer to it as “integrative or complementary” medicine. In general, the term “alternative therapy” refers to any health treatment not standard in Western medical practice.

The field of alternative therapies is diverse: It encompasses practices spanning diet and exercise changes, hypnosis, chiropractic adjustment, and acupuncture.

According to Wikipedia “Alternative medicine – or fringe medicine – includes practices claimed to have the healing effects of medicine but which are dis-proven, unproven, impossible to prove, or are excessively harmful in relation to their effect; and where the scientific consensus is that the therapy does not, or cannot, work because the known laws of nature are violated by its basic claims; or where it is considered so much worse than conventional treatment that it would be unethical to offer as treatment. Alternative therapies or diagnoses are not part of medicine or science-based healthcare systems.”

I will explain this topic little in detail; first I will explain most popular methods in some sort of detail. Many different areas make up the practice of complementary and alternative medicine. In addition, many parts of one field may overlap with the parts of another field. For example, acupuncture is also used in conventional medicine.

Acupuncture

A system of complementary medicine in which fine needles are inserted in the skin at specific points along what are considered to be lines of energy (meridians), used in the treatment of various physical and mental conditions.

Ayurveda

The traditional Hindu system of medicine (incorporated in Atharva Veda, the last of the four Vedas), which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.

 

Homeopathy

A system of complementary medicine in which ailments are treated by minute doses of natural substances that in larger amounts would produce symptoms of the ailment.

 

Naturopathy

A system of alternative medicine based on the theory that diseases can be successfully treated or prevented without the use of drugs, by techniques such as control of diet, exercise, and massage.

Balneotherapy

The treatment of disease by bathing in mineral springs; It’s based on the idea that water benefits the skin and might treat a range of conditions from acne to pain, swelling, and anxiety; practitioners use mudpacks, douches, and wraps in attempts to reap healing rewards.

So, what is the problem with all these systems?

Interestingly, as more and more studies of alternative therapies are being conducted, we’re discovering that many of them do work—but not necessarily for the things people believe. Acupuncture, for example, has been suggested to be effective in reducing the nausea associated with chemotherapy. But trials also show for back pain there’s a good chance it’s no better than placebo.

The real problem with “alternative medicine” is that almost by definition it has not been thoroughly tested for efficacy and safety.

Therefore, in most cases nobody can prove it doesn’t work. While of course proving a negative goes against all good sense and logic, this is the sort of argument that is consistently pushed by those profiting from alternative medicine and that can cut through to those in a desperate situation.

The reason why alternative medicine is hardly ever tested in its own right is simply that there is not enough evidence to justify endangering patient’s lives. While anyone can sell “alternative treatments” promising they will work, in order for these “alternatives” to become “mainstream” medicine they need to go through a rigorous process of testing.

Conclusion

Science is a very dissatisfying thing. There are no miracle cures, only statistically significant increases in mean survival. A doctor prescribing a revolutionary cancer drugs cannot ethically promise that the patient will be cured.

Traditional treatments aren’t inherently superior to alternative ones—they’re just better studied. This doesn’t mean that they’re effective or safe beyond any doubt—just that they’re more likely to be. Working with the public and educating patients so that more and more people understand the choices they make is clearly becoming as important as providing them with real, safe and effective treatment options.

 

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