Which alternative medical treatments work?
Published Friday, October 19, 2018 11:53AM PDT Last Updated Friday, October 19, 2018 7:01PM PDT
Sometimes mainstream medicine doesn’t have a good solution for ailments like chronic pain, stress and insomnia, which is why many people turn to alternative treatments.
For chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, there is evidence that alternative treatments like meditation, yoga, and tai-chi can actually help.
“A lot of people do yoga to relax or to promote flexibility, or because they enjoy it. But there is actually evidence that regularly practicing yoga can help ease depression, help with lower-back pain, and even reduce blood pressure,” explained Laura Friedman, Consumer Reports health editor.
Mindfulness techniques, certain forms of meditation, and deep breathing may also help relieve stress.
Suffering from sleep problems? There is evidence that taking melatonin can help with specific conditions, such as those related to jet lag or shift work. But it may have a minimal effect in treating other sleep problems, like insomnia.
“The first thing you do shouldn’t be to take pills or something like melatonin. But there is something you can try called cognitive behavioural therapy. It can help you disrupt poor sleeping habits and set you on a better course to healthier sleep,” said Friedman.
While those alternative treatments can work, there are many others that don’t have evidence to support them.
Some can even be dangerous, like kratom. It’s promoted as a safe pain reliever but could be as addictive as opioids and has been linked to at least 44 deaths in the United States.
It’s important to do your research, be choosy about alternative health practitioners, consider how much it could cost you, and think holistically.
“When you’re interested in alternative treatments, the more serious the problem, the more cautious you should be. Before trying any new plant, you should always talk to your doctor first,” Friedman advised.