Myth, magic, religion and Complementary Alternative Medicine

Myth, magic, religion and Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) how inescapably entwined.

CAM is by and large, derived from ancient and often far-eastern practices. Included under it's banner it comes in multifarous forms such as naturopathy, chiropractic, herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine, Unani, Ayurveda, faith or spiritual healers, urotherapy, oxygen therapy, Polarity Therapy, Reiki, Gerson Therapy, holistic medicine, hydrogen peroxide, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, hypnosis, homeopathy, acupuncture, diet-based therapies and so on and on and on.

It is a billion dollar industry which is flourishing. And as per religion lo and behold there is a lack evidence-based assessment. The 'safety and efficacy is either not available or has not been performed for many of these practices' from

Dan's discussion posted on July 3, 2009 on TA site relates to this "Parents in faith-healing case never considered calling a doctor."

The following quote is an example of how CAM is hoodwinking us and sapping money out of the system.

The following quote is from

“Spiritual healers” using up scarce NHS resources

The University College London Hospital is to spend £80,000 on testing whether “spiritual healers” can have an effect on cancer.

“Healers” – who wave their hands over the patient and claim to transmit some kind of undefined ‘energy’ – want to find out whether their efforts increase the number of white blood cells in cancer sufferers.

Astonishingly, UCLH has a dedicated team of 10 “healers”, who cost the hospital around £80,000 a year to maintain. They are the idea of department manager Angela Buxton who first became interested in “spiritual healing” after the death of her seven-year-old son from leukaemia. She told the local paper: “Science has not caught up with how it works. Anecdotal evidence shows it works but we need hard evidence.”

The trial will need 50 volunteers who have had chemotherapy. “We want to know if the white blood cells are increasing after we give the patient healing,” Mrs Buxton said.

Dr Michael Irwin, co-ordinator of the Secular Medical Forum commented: “What a ridiculous way to waste £80,000. Surely the ten ‘helpers’ at UCLH could be financed by those, outside the hospital, who believe in this hocus-pocus? £80,000 could pay the salaries of four nurses for a year - a much better use of anyone's precious resources.”

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society said: “This ‘healers’ project is self-indulgent claptrap. There are many scientifically-proven cancer treatments available that health authorities cannot afford to prescribe. This rubbishy pseudo-science should be kicked out of the hospital immediately.”

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Reiki, reflexology, homeopathic remedies, and the like have undergone some studies, often many studies. They've just all been negative. No significant improvement over placebo. (Except for the one about ginger being good for post-chemo nausea. That one had enough of a result to jusitfy further research)

I think that if chiropractic is going to emerge from the dark ages of its pseudoscience past and stake a claim as a viable scientifically sound field, it needs to make no bones about separating itself from the nonsense that is, far too often, clinging to it.
I agree and I'd say it's finally starting to happen right now and has been on the way for a while.

lol. "No bones about separating." I see what you did there.
Just so you know, a pinched nerve is actually a counterindication to spinal manipulation. Adjusting the spine while you have a pinched nerve could lead to permanent nerve damage.
Sometimes a joke sums it up best for me. I have scoliosis and found Chiropractic intervention much the same as fighting a cold. Give it two weeks of taking it easy and problem goes away with or without treatment. But that says nothing of my future or other ailments. To the joke about homeopathic treatments. sorry that it's an outside link.
Good one Gaytor - I like the joke input - that's sharp. I would say the "gist" of the joke is basically true for all those CAM things.

Yes it's amazing what a little bit of rest will do & best of all it's free of charge. No input or output from the 'angels' and 'mediums' there.

I can sympathise with your back condition. I did my knee cartilage in; while, get this - trying to keep fit. Doc. said I should do some cycling or swimming to build up muscles around the knee & sort of increase blood supply to the area & by not doing too many weight bearing exercises, even walking. Interestingly he provided this common sense advice & didn't prescribe any 'dirty drugs'. As apparently the CAM camp would like everyone to believe, i.e. that's all doctors do prescribe.
It's a fact of life the old body ain't what it used to be and injuries take awhile longer to heal. We're not immortal as some would have us believe.
Frankly, I don't care if a voodoo witch doctor shakes a chicken at me twice and prescribes green tea. I don't even care if it's placebo effect. If anyone.. anyTHING can help with my back/shoulder issues... I'll sign on!
Even cortisol shots only work for like two days now....
Heroin is extremely effective! Sorry Misty, I will shake a chicken in your honor, but I don't have a cure.
Look that's fine as it's your choice.

I am not at all happy that you have a bad back & sympathise with you. I know first hand that when you're not fit and healthy it's awful, all you want to do is feel well again.

I work in the bush as an ecologist, ticks and spider bites are common & I have had Ross River fever, Q fever & glandular fever. Luckily there have been medicines that can help with the majority of these attacks.

With your back problem that's a different issue a bit like my knee cartilage problem. I have spent a lot of the time recovering by essentially starting with passive exercises like just lifting my leg and bending the knee while sitting down & stretching, but just keep the movement going. It's still not 100% yet and probably never will be I have to live with that. I'll just keep the movement & stretches going. The same happened when I fractured my scapula and dislocated my shoulder while surfing. It took awhile to recover from this and the pain was excrutiating, took some pain killers prescribed by the doc until I could handle the pain. But I just continued with exercise, movements & stretches specific to my arms & shoulder, kept the movement going slowly at first until it didn't hurt so much then increased. Glad to say I am back in the water. Although the knee problem also has kept me out of the H2O for almost the same time as the shoulder.

But I would never go and pay money for a 'placebo effect'. I'd never go to the church for a bit of faith healing and talk to the angels.

And ditto I don't have a cure only a suggestion such as finding some exercises even passive ones including stretching specific to your back. You will have to be patient, it's not instant. Massage I think is OK for temporary relief. If you need some 'placebo' do that. I would pay for a massage rather than a bout with a magnetic or Reiki practitioner. Afterall I hope our species has progressed from voodoo.
The latest from Ben Goldacre @, Wednesday 29 July 2009 16.11 BST.
Regarding Simon Singh-science-chiropractic-litigation.

"An intrepid, ragged band of bloggers: Chiropractors may regret choosing to sue Simon Singh, springing online scientists into action

Today the Australian magazine Cosmos, along with a vast number of other blogs and publications, reprinted an article by Simon Singh, in slightly tweaked form, in an act of solidarity. The British Chiropractic Association has been suing Singh personally for the past 15 months, over a piece in the Guardian where he criticised the BCA for claiming that its members could treat children for colic, ear infections, asthma, prolonged crying, and sleeping and feeding conditions by manipulating their spines.

The BCA maintains that the efficacy of these treatments is well documented. Singh said that claims were made without sufficient evidence, described the treatments as "bogus", and criticised the BCA for "happily promoting" them. At a preliminary hearing in May, to decide the meaning of this article, Mr Justice Eady ruled that Singh's wording implied the BCA was being deliberately dishonest. Singh has repeatedly been clear that he never intended this meaning, but has been forced to defend this single utterance, out of his own pocket, at a cost that has run to six figures.

Soon we will get to the story of the backlash, but first, while you may view this as a free speech issue, there are also some specific worries raised when people sue in medicine and science.

It is possible in healthcare to do great harm, while intending to do good, and so medicine thrives on criticism: this is how ideas improve, and therefore how lives are saved. The three most highly rated articles in the latest chart from the British Medical Journal are all highly critical of medical practice. Academic conferences are often bloodbaths. To stand in the way of ideas and practices being improved through critical appraisal is not just dangerous, it is disrespectful to patients, and even if someone has been technically defamatory in their wording, it is plainly undesirable for all critical discourse in healthcare to be conducted in a stifling climate of fear. Neither the General Medical Council nor the British Medical Association have ever sued anyone for saying that their members are up to no good. I asked them. The idea is laughable.

But beyond whether it is right, there is the more entertaining issue of whether it was wise, and here it is hard to contain a sense of schadenfreude as the chiropractors' world unravels. First, there is the media exposure. This case and the chilling effects of libel threats in science have now been covered by the Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, the Independent, Nature, the Economist, Times Higher Education, the Sunday Times, Channel 4, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, Private Eye, the Observer, the BBC, and an editorial in the British Medical Journal, to name just a few. This story has travelled around the world.

Most of these articles drew attention to the evidence for chiropractic's efficacy, which is often not compelling. Some discussed chiropractic's dubious origins: it was invented by a magnet therapist, convicted of practising medicine without a licence, who suddenly decided in 1895 that 95% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae, and compared himself to Christ, Muhammad and Martin Luther. Who knew?

An international petition against the BCA has been signed by professors, journalists, celebrities and more, with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Fry alongside the previous head of the Medical Research Council and the last government chief scientific adviser. There have been public meetings, with stickers and badges. But it is a ragged band of science bloggers who has done the most detailed work. Fifteen months after the case began, the BCA finally released the academic evidence it was using to support specific claims. Within 24 hours this was taken apart meticulously by bloggers, referencing primary research papers, and looking in every corner.

Professor David Colquhoun of UCL pointed out, on infant colic, that the BCA cited weak evidence in its favour, while ignoring strong evidence contradicting its claims. He posted the evidence and explained it. LayScience flagged up the BCA selectively quoting a Cochrane review. Every stone was turned by Quackometer, APGaylard, Gimpyblog, EvidenceMatters, Dr Petra Boynton, MinistryofTruth, Holfordwatch, legal blogger Jack of Kent, and many more. At every turn they have taken the opportunity to explain a different principle of evidence based medicine – the sin of cherry-picking results, the ways a clinical trial can be unfair by design – to an engaged lay audience, with clarity as well as swagger.

Then the formal complaints began. There have been successes with the Advertising Standards Authority, including one which concluded that claims to treat colic breached the guidelines on "truthfulness" and "substantiation". This interested many, since treating colic was a claim sued over by the BCA when Singh called it "bogus".

Professional complaints followed in May, mostly about individual chiropractors' claims. Then, in June, blogger Simon Perry found the BCA database of 1,029 members online, containing 400 website URLs. He wrote a quick computer program to automatically identify all the chiropractors in the UK claiming to treat colic, locate their local Trading Standards office, and report them (more than 500 in total) automatically, followed up with printed letters.

Chiropractic is also a profession regulated by the General Chiropractic Council, supervised by the Health Professional Council, which are obliged to investigate all complaints. So Perry reported over 500 chiropractors to them, alleging they had made claims without adequate evidence. The GCC rejected his letter, saying it only takes individual complaints. A pile of individual complaint letters were instantly generated and delivered to their door. Astonishingly, ZenosBlog had done exactly the same thing. These 1,000 complaints are now being investigated.

You may view this as bullying individuals, and initially I had some sympathies. But my heart was hardened, reading commentary from the chiropractic and alternative therapy community, saying Singh must expect six-figure consequences for criticising them, and transgressing the letter of the law, even in just one article.

Some clue to whether chiropractors feel able to defend these complaints over the evidence for their practices came a few days later. On 8 June the McTimoney Chiropractic Association sent a confidential email to its members, which has been obtained and is available in full on Quackometer. "If you have a website," this email begins, "take it down NOW … REMOVE all the blue MCA patient information leaflets, or any patient information leaflets of your own that state you treat whiplash, colic or other childhood problems in your clinic … IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ADVICE, YOU MAY BE AT RISK FROM PROSECUTION. Finally, we strongly suggest you do NOT discuss this with others" – and on this they were clear – "especially patients."

The MCA says this is a "vexatious campaign against the profession", that it has nothing to hide, and believes its members have not intentionally breached any rules regarding their websites' content. The entire MCA website disappeared on the same day, and continues to be nothing more than a holding page (it "is currently being updated"), but its former site, along with every single chiropractor's website, has been archived in full online by the science blogging community, for anyone who is interested to look.

We could go on, but there are lessons from this debacle – beyond the ethical concerns over suing in the field of science and medicine – and they are clear. First, if you have reputation and superficial plausibility more than evidence to support your activities, then it may be wise to keep under the radar, rather than start expensive fights. But more interestingly than that, a ragged band of bloggers from all walks of life has, to my mind, done a better job of subjecting an entire industry's claims to meaningful, public, scientific scrutiny than the media, the industry itself, and even its own regulator. It's strange this task has fallen to them, but I'm glad someone is doing it, and they do it very, very well indeed."
Interesting and a whole lot to take into consideration.
I fully agree that there should be censorship on criticism of neither religion nor science. I was unaware of the ongoing litigation and what it implies for all those involved.
My first hand experience wasn't a bad one, but it was just that... simply first hand experience.
The defense that our resident atheist chiropractor gave made sense in my mind, and his education seemed on par with what I would expect. If it is a case of having similar names of far different courses as you suggested, then I do believe that the entire infrastructure needs to be investigated and disassembled. Education itself is on the brink of that, but especially in regards of having the license to work on a human injury.
My opinion will simply have to rest in the idea that there are a whole lot of scary people out there doing things they shouldn't do, but hopefully a few solid minds that have the unfortunate struggle of sharing the same name.

And yes.. I've been on stretching/exercise/massage regimes since the initial injury and the following subsequent ones. My chiropractor was the only one to use electroshock and joint manipulation. Whether or not that helped, even in the short term is still up for debate. :)
Homeopathy & other CAM hoodwinking exposed, recent news 21 Jan 2010 -


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