February 1999 To Your Health News Volume 2, Number 2
Use of Alternative Medicine Increasing
In November 1998, many American Medical Association (AMA) publications featured studies on alternative medicine. The centerpiece of the alternative medicine issue of the AMA’s flagship publication, JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), was a national telephone survey by Dr. David Eisenberg and his colleagues that was a follow-up to their landmark survey of 1991.
Far higher percentages of people sought alternative care and vastly greater sums were spent on alternative treatments in 1997 than in 1990: There were 629 million visits to alternative practitioners–more than the total visits to all U.S. primary care physicians.
The conclusions were inescapable: Alternative medicine in all its forms must be taken more seriously, must be studied and understood better, and traditional organized medicine must do more to recognize the utility of effective alternative approaches such as chiropractic.
The Eisenberg study found that “the highest condition-specific rates of alternative therapy use in 1997 were for neck (57%) and back (47.6%) problems.” This fact–plus the high degree of satisfaction patients express for the treatment their chiropractors provide–places chiropractic at the center of the movement toward alternatives to traditional medicine.
Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, et al. Trends in Alternative Medicine Use in the United States, 1990-1997. Journal of the American Medical Association, Nov. 11, 1998; vol. 280, no. 18, pp1569-75.
Significant Role of Chiropractic Recognized
Chiropractic is recognized as an important component of the U.S. health care system and is the largest alternative medicine profession. An analytical and historical overview (published in the AMA’s prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine), states that it is problematic even to call chiropractic”alternative,” because in many ways it is “distinctly mainstream.”
Chiropractic is licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. One-third of all patients with low back pain are treated by chiropractors. Tens of millions of visits are made to doctors of chiropractic and billions of dollars are spent on chiropractic annually. Since 1972, Medicare has reimbursed patients for chiropractic treatments, which are also covered by most insurance companies. And the number of chiropractors is expected to double by 2010, while the increase in the number of traditional physicians is expected to grow by only 16 percent.
With great insight, this article identifies what makes chiropractic different and so appealing to its patients:
“Too often, biomedicine fails to affirm a patient’s chronic pain. Patients think their experience is brushed aside by a physician who treats it as unjustified, unfounded, or annoying, attitudes that heighten a patient’s anguish and intensify suffering. … By rooting pain in a clear physical cause, chiropractic validates a patient’s experience. Even for patients with acute pain, chiropractic’s assertiveness, clarity, and precision provide reassurance. Chiropractic’s ultimate lesson may be to reinforce the principle that the patient-physician relationship is fundamentally about words and deeds of connection and compassion. Chiropractic has managed to embody this message in the gift of hands.”
Kaptchuk TJ, Eisenberg DM. Chiropractic: Origins, controversies, and contributions. Archives of Internal Medicine, Nov. 9, 1998; vol. 158, no. 20, pp2215-24.
No Evidence Back Belts Work
Lumbar back belts are popular in many industries. Low back pain affects more than 60 percent of the adult population in the United States and billions of dollars are lost in wages and medical costs. Manufacturers of the belts have had little difficulty selling their products on the assumption that back belts reduce muscle fatigue, protect against low back injuries and save money.
There is no scientific evidence that the belts work. A study in the journal Spine had 13 men and 11 women each perform a dynamic lifting test twice (once with a belt and once without) and measured muscular fatigue and isometric force. The results do not support manufacturers’ claims that wearing their back belts will minimize muscle fatigue.
Many chiropractors warn their patients not to depend too much on back belts to protect them while working or playing in ways that put unusual strains on the lower back.
Majkowski GR, Jovag BW, Taylor BT, Taylor MS, et al. The effect of back belt use on isometric lifting force and fatigue of the lumbar paraspinal muscles. Spine, Oct. 1, 1998; vol. 23, no. 19, pp2104-9.
Exercise Your Prostate Trouble Away?
Most men over fifty eventually suffer lower urinary tract symptoms caused by noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland, a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
Researchers assessed whether exercise leads to a reduction in lower urinary tract symptoms. Nearly 4,000 men 40 to 75 who were free of diagnosed cancer, and found that men who walked two to three hours per week had a 25 percent lower risk of total BPH and lower urinary tract symptoms associated with BPH.
You, or your older male friends and family members, can benefit from knowing that exercise is a safe and easy method for decreasing the frequency of lower urinary tract symptoms.
Platz EA, Kawachi I, Rimm EB, et al. Physical activity and benign prostatic hyperplasia. Archives of Internal Medicine, Nov. 23, 1998; vol. 158, no. 21, pp2349-56.
Saw Palmetto May Also Be Good for Your Prostate
As more men live longer, far greater numbers of them experience the discomfort and distress of the lower urinary tract symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland). Consequently, interest is growing in ways to prevent and treat BPH symptoms.
The results of a study published in JAMA suggests that nonprescription saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) extracts diminish urinary tract symptoms in men with BPH. Moreover, compared with the typically prescribed drug finasteride, they produce similar improvement at lower cost and with fewer adverse (and often serious) treatment effects.
Such research supports the chiropractic approach of recommending more natural, alternative treatments for common and debilitating physical conditions for which traditional medicine customarily orders the use of costly and not-always-safe medications and/or highly intrusive, often-damaging surgery.
Wilt TJ, Ishani A, Stark G, et al. Saw palmetto extracts for treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: A systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Association, Nov. 11, 1998; vol. 280, no. 18, pp1604-9.
Moderate Alcohol Consumption Affects Fertility
Alcohol consumption is one possible cause of the growing infertility problem. Animal studies have shown that alcohol decreases steroid hormone concentrations, causes amenorrhea (absence of a menstrual period), reduces ovarian weight, inhibits ovulation and interferes with sperm cell transport through the fallopian tube.
Fecundability is defined as the probability of achieving conception or a recognized pregnancy in a menstrual cycle. From 1992 through 1995, Danish researchers studied 430 couples aged 20 to 35 who were trying to conceive for the first time. The couples were followed up over six menstrual cycles or until a clinically recognized pregnancy occurred after discontinuation of contraception. Female fecundability was lower even among women with relatively low alcohol intake (5 drinks a week).
Because consuming the equivalent of five or fewer drinks can reduce the chances of conceiving a child, women who are trying to get pregnant should avoid drinking alcoholic beverages.
Jensen TK, Hjollund NH, Henriksen, et al. Does moderate alcohol consumption affect fertility? Follow up study among couples planning first pregnancy. British Medical Journal, 1998; vol. 318, pp505-10.
Over-the-Counter Nicotine Patch Works?
Transdermal nicotine patches are in wide use to help smokers give up their damaging habit. An article in the American Medical Association’s Archives of Family Medicine reports on a study that shows over-the-counter patches have permitted a significant percentage of smokers to quit (defined as 4 consecutive weeks of total abstinence from smoking).
Because over-the-counter quit rates were comparable to those reported for medical settings, the nicotine patch may be a justifiably attractive option if you are trying to stop smoking without costly, time-consuming medical intervention.
Davidson M, Epstein M, Burt R, et al. Efficacy and safety of an over-the-counter transdermal nicotine patch as an aid for smoking cessation. Archives of Family Medicine, Nov./Dec. 1998; vol. 7, no. 6, pp569-74.
Watch out for Herb-Drug Interactions!
It is in your own best interest to be sure that all your health care providers know exactly what drugs, herbs, or other supplements you already take–before they recommend any others that may interact in ways that jeopardize rather than improve your health. Dangerous, even fatal, interactions between herbal preparations and medical prescriptions become more likely when doctors are not aware of herbal consumption by their patients.
This article provides an invaluable reference guide to drug-herb interactions of many commonly used herbs.
Miller LG. Herbal medicinals: Selected clinical considerations focusing on known or potential drug-herb interactions. Archives of Internal Medicine, Nov. 9, 1998; vol. 158, no. 20, pp2200-11.
Walsh WJ, Isaacson HR, Rehman F, et al. Elevated blood copper/zinc ratios in assaultive young males. Physiology and Behavior, 1997, vol.62, pp327-29.