MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

We all know that alternative medicine is currently popular, and much of the evidence suggested that this is mostly because mostly people in the midst of their lives are using it. This may be so, but it is about to change; it stands to reason that these ‘baby boomers’ are getting older, and therefore the typical user of alternative medicine is or will soon be an elderly person. In addition, the ‘oldies’ (I am one of them) are likely to be multi-morbid and therefore have more reason to try everything that is on offer.

Not convinced? But that is roughly is what this website seems to suggest:

START OF QUOTE

Geriatric population is more susceptible to chronic diseases such as heart problems, joint disorders and others. Therefore, this population group needs regular use of the medicines to prevent the disease conditions. The use of complementary and alternative medicines is increasing among the geriatric population globally due to the fact that CAMs decreases the risk of adverse reactions and drug interactions.

Complementary and alternative medicines include products such as dietary medicine and herbal medicine products. These medicines can be used for the management of both communicable (i.e. tuberculosis, hantavirus and others) and non communicable diseases (i.e. chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular and others) in geriatric population. These medicines (i.e. CAM) treat the patients by healing therapies which is not based on principles of conventional medicine.

Geographically, North America is considered as the largest market of geriatric complementary and alternative medicines owing to high use of CAMs in this region. For example, Health and Retirement Study conducted one survey which concluded that around 85% of the geriatric population in North America reported the use of complementary and alternative medicines. Thus, high use of CAM modalities will establish healthy platform to develop the growth of geriatric complementary and alternative medicines market.

Europe is the second largest market of geriatric complementary and alternative medicines. The growth is mainly attributed to the increasing aging population coupled with rising use of complementary and alternative medicines in Europe. According to European Commission (Eurostat) report published in 2013, around 17.8% of the European population were aged 65 years and above. The organization has also stated that aging population is expected to increase at high rate in coming year in Europe. In addition, Asia-Pacific is the emerging market for geriatric complementary and alternative medicines market because of rising interest of key companies to expand their presence in Asia Pacific.

Key companies operating in the market for geriatric complementary and alternative medicines include Geriatric & Medical Companies, Inc., Merck Sharp & Dohme Corporation. Geri-Care pharmaceuticals, UAS Laboratories.

END OF QUOTE

I know, this text includes several glaring errors. But the main claim that alternative medicine is fast becoming a thing for the elderly might well be true. This, of course, has implications for marketing, research, etc. For us on this blog it means that we need to find better ways to get through to people who are no spring chickens any longer.

The elderly have special needs and can be vulnerable in several ways. When they are ill, they need efficacious treatments. By and large, this excludes alternative therapies. The elderly may also be more susceptible to the risks of alternative medicine. Moreover, they are often not that affluent and might need to watch their expenses. Making them spend large amounts of cash on treatments that are ineffective is therefore a particularly unethical.

I think that messages like these might convince some elderly people to stop putting unreasonable hope in, and wasting their time/money on bogus therapies. But I am very keen to hear from my readers about further ideas how to curb the boom of alternative medicine in this age group.

29 Responses to Alternative medicine: a thing for the elderly!?!?

  • I agree, we need to guide our ageing population towards evidence based non-surgical and non-pharmacological practices and procedures that can resolve or reduce their back neck and other musculoskeletal conditions as they account for the majority of western societies years with disability.

    • why just nonsurgical and non-pharmacological?
      why just back neck and other musculoskeletal conditions?
      haven’t they taught you in chiro school that the body consists of more than bones, tendons and muscles?

      • According to the recent paper published in The Lancet(Vol 388 October 8, 2016)titled Global, regional and national disability-adjusted life-years for 315 diseases and injuries and healthy life expectency,1990-2015. The number ONE disease for life with disability is mostly Back and neck pain, followed by heart disease. Then in Australia it’s depression followed by other musculoskeletal conditions such as headache and fibromyalgia. Of course the human body consists of more than connective tissue and bone but that’s where the majority of chronic pain and disability occurs. I’m sure that in Australasia, if back and neck pain was managed more efficaciously then I would suggest that the number 3 disability, depression would be reduced.

        • “The number ONE disease for life with disability is mostly Back and neck pain…”
          Haven’t they told you in chiro school that back/neck pain is not a disease but a symptom?

          • Back pain is defined as a disease. Wikepedia defines it as such. Nevertheless it’s the number one cause for years with disability in Australasia. You may not agree but it’s still a serious and expensive situation for human society.

          • then wiki is wrong!
            did they not teach you in chiro school to use proper sources for important issues?

          • @ Michael Epstein

            YOU ARE WRONG!! Wikipedia nowhere defines back pain as a disease: Google ‘back pain wikipedia’ and check it out. It describes the diseases that may cause the symptoms of back pain. It seems chiro school doesn’t even teach you to read properly.

          • @Frank Odd

            There is some countenance for Dr. Epstein’s reference to back pain as a “disease.”

            Chronic Pain As a Disease: Why Does It Still Hurt? – Spine-Health
            http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/…pain/chronic-pain-a-disease-why-does-it-still-hurt
            Chronic pain is now understood to be a disease. This article discusses how types of chronic pain and chronic back pain.

            I hope this gives Frank some clarification relative to the discussion of back pain. This forum is a fine venue for education.

            Be well

          • It’s ironic, isn’t it, that on this thread we have two chiropractors determinedly insisting that back pain is a disease, not a symptom. Well, that at least puts one matter to rest. Chiropractic clearly can’t claim to be a branch of ‘holistic’ or ‘integrative’ medicine if it’s merely treating diseases, rather than the whole person.

            On several other threads we’ve learned that chiros disagree with each other not just over the finer points of their manipulative ‘art’, but even over the basic philosopical/pseudo-medical underpinnings of chiropractic. Perhaps we are now seeing a divide along holistic and non-holistic practitioners. On several other threads in this blog I’ve commented on how there seems to be ‘no true chiropractor’ (a parallel with the ‘no true Scotsman’ line of reasoning). The present example only extends my case.

            Oh well, as someone mentioned elsewhere, this blog is nothing if not educational.

          • @Frank Odds

            It’s really interesting that Frank wrongheadedly infers erroneous “conclusions’ from other posters’ comments. Nowhere did I state I believed that back pain was a disease. Had Frank concentrated a bit more assiduously when reading my post, he would perhaps have been able to understand that I stated only that “there is some countenance” for Dr. Epstein’s having referred to it as such.

            From Frank’s misguided “take” on my comments, he went on and on about what he thinks chiropratic is, as well his “thoughts” regarding the schism, as he envisions it, within chiropractic. In other words, the “present example”(both mentioned AND made up by Frank) was primarily based on his expedient misunderstanding of my clearly written comments; therefore, any conclusions he expressed are essentially fallacious.

            Please Frank….read comments more carefully before you reply.

            Be well

    • Fat chance of finding much agreement with your cogent comments on this forum. Most of the contributors here BELIEVE only in “honest, accurate” MEDICAL research. Unfortunately, some prominent meta-researchers have observed that accurate, unbiased, non-profit-inspired medical research is somewhat scant and is often skewed toward a profitable outcome for a drug company. One such researcher’s thoughts are discussed within this post.

      “Can any medical-research studies be trusted”? This question was posed by “uber-researcher” Dr. John Ioannidis.

      That question has been central to Ioannidis’s career. He’s what’s known as a meta-researcher, and he’s become one of the world’s foremost experts on the credibility of medical research. He and his team have shown, again and again, and in many different ways, that much of what biomedical researchers conclude in published studies—conclusions that doctors keep in mind when they prescribe antibiotics or blood-pressure medication, or when they advise us to consume more fiber or less meat, or when they recommend surgery for heart disease or back pain—is misleading, exaggerated, and often flat-out wrong. He charges that as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed. His work has been widely accepted by the medical community; it has been published in the field’s top journals, where it is heavily cited; and he is a big draw at conferences. Given this exposure, and the fact that his work broadly targets everyone else’s work in medicine, as well as everything that physicians do and all the health advice we get, Ioannidis may be one of the most influential scientists alive. Yet for all his influence, he worries that the field of medical research is so pervasively flawed, and so riddled with conflicts of interest, that it might be chronically resistant to change—or even to publicly admitting that there’s a problem.

      It appears that they didn’t teach students in medical school that much of their prescribing education was based, politely stated, on unsound science.

      Be well

  • The quote above uses a tactic I see frequently on quacks’ websites: cite a general statistic (even better, an alarming one) from an authoritative source that might at first glance seem to support whatever it is that’s being advertised. It’s easy to see how a casual reader might not spot the sleight of hand.

    • As a surgeon I always teach that surgery is only to be resorted to when non-surgical methods have no effect.
      Likewise, only use drugs if necessary.

      But the only practitioners who can say “surgery will not help” are those capable of doing surgery.
      Likewise the only practitioners who can honestly say “drugs will not help” are those qualified and licensed to provide them.

      Now, where is the evidence that “non-surgical and non-pharmacological methods” actually DO relieve musculoskeletal conditions (and do better than ‘wait and see’) – and which methods are they?

      The only plausible evidence I have seen suggests a menu of methods can be effective.
      So no need to waste time and trouble on faith based systems such as chiropractic.
      Physiotherapy seems the most cost-effective for MSCs.
      And for other conditions?
      Self evidently, start off with a MD/MB BS.

      The boom in interest in camistry will only be moderated by education – from this and the many other blogs.

      • I refer you to the manuscript:THE ADDITION OF SAGITTAL CERVICAL POSTURE CORRECTIVE ORTHOTIC DEVICE TO A MULTIMODAL REHABILITATIVE PROGRAM IMPROVES SHORT AND LONG TERM OUTCOMES IN PATIENTS WITH DISCOGENIC CERVICAL RADICULOPATHY. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehab. Moustafa and Diab Accepted 19 July 2016. A chiropractic developed procedure independently tested by physiotherapists who earned their PhD by testing numerous Chiropractic Biophysics practices and procedures. Trust I am clear!

        • Certainly this is an interesting study; I read it last year. Instead of touting the results as informative, encouraging and worthy of additional study; Edzard, I predict, will simply diss it because of the lack of a placebo test group or for another technical reason.

          • @Logos-Bios on Sunday 22 January 2017 at 17:35

            What? Do you mean it fails the scrupulous standards required of such research to exclude false outcomes?

            You really must be insanely envious; a daughter who is a doctor and a wife who is a PT , and you are a …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………chiro.

            I understand from where your anger and resentment come. lol

          • @Frank Collins

            What a nasty comment you have written to me here. Tsk, tsk. I laud your memory, however: my daughter is indeed a physician(Med-peds resident) and my wife is a PT(neuro-developmental pediatric).

            Note that I harbor no resentment of my family, only pride. Note also that I harbor no resentment of the fine work and accomplishments within medicine of everyone here in this forum. It’s only when drivel is posted about chiropractic by folks who obviously are ignorant of mainstream chiropractice that things get “testy.”

        • @Dr. Michael Epstein

          You would have been lucidly clear if you had provided a link to your reference.
          It would also help clarity if we could keep to clear terminology when discussing this subject.

          I maintain that “Chiropractic” is a term that should be reserved for the collection of deceptive parlour tricks devised by DD Palmer for pretending to cure and relieve. A Chiropractor is one who is supposed to have learnt the use of said tricks and practices them for the purpose Mr. Palmer intended, i.e. pretending to affect imaginary structural problems of the spine also concocted out of total ignorance by Mr. Palmer and never confirmed in any way.
          Similarly illusory inventions by later members of the chiropractic cult, e.g. manipulation of the belly for “correction” of hiatal hernia (a certain Texan active on Youtube) or thumping of the wrists to prevent arthritis (my own observation) or silly gadgets such as the clicky sticks and the make-believe meters (Nervo-scope) many chiropractors use. These unproven additions to the bag of tricks can of course be labelled “chiropractic”as they are part of the deception. The only usefulness of any of the chiropractic theatricals that I know off, is probably an incidental effect and involves temporary albeit non-consistent relief of acute lumbago by the rotational manipulation of the lower spine when they perform their “humping trick” as I call it. I have heard from doctors (real Dr’s) who know this trick (albeit without the humping-thumping part). This skill seems to have been forwarded from mentor to student through generations.
          Anyway… Nothing else from Mr. palmers collection of tricks has ever been found useful for anything other than improving the cash flow of chiropractors.

          The term “Chiropractic” thus entails deception. As Alternative medicine that happens to prove useful will become (none-alternative) medicine, so should “chiropractic” methods that happen to prove useful no longer be called “chiropractic” as this term is tainted and will only lead to distrust and confusion.

          If, as many of them seem to do, members of the chiropractic cult adopt proven and tried methods that belong to the realm of physiotherapy, then that should not be classified as “chiropractic”, it should be called physiotherapy, to distinguish it from deception of classical chiropractic as I believe many of you call Palmer’s legacy. This also applies to the cases where inventions by chiropractors may have been proven genuinely useful. Perhaps your reference is describing such an instance? Such techniques /methods should be called physiotherapy or medicine, not “chiropractic” to avoid confusion and aversion.

          A few of our chiropractor friends here, like John Badanes (did I spell that right?) and “Critical-Chiro” seem to wish to distance themselves from Palmer’s treacherous legacy. Their problem is that they wish to both eat the cake and keep it. They want to be respected as practitioners of proven methods but still hold on to a title of charlatanry, which in my mind precludes full respect.

          • Geir again states comments for the purpose of establishing a “fake truth.” He has been schooled on the errors of his redundant allegations that modern, mainstream chiropractice is based on D.D. Palmer’s antiquated thoughts in the 1800’s. Geir’s thoughts regarding a name change for chiropractic has also been discussed; I actually somewhat agreed with him on that matter.

            Chiropractic physicians diagnose, and many provide PT services in their practices. The fact that there is now some overlap in DC and PT treatment protocol is not a viable reason in and of itself for DC’s changing(per Geir’s “thoughts”) their professional titles to PT’s. After all, DC’s by licensure and education basically can already do everything that PT’s do; the reverse is not generally true.

          • It appears Edzard dislikes the exposing of treachery within the bariatric surgery community yet likes Geir’s allegation of general treachery within chiropractic. Note that Geir’s comment was based on nothing but his own biased opinion.

            Geir alleged chiropractic to be a cult full of charlatans and his comments posted. I quoted a medical source for why bariatric surgery might be more guilty of treachery than chiropractic, and my comments got deleted even though there were no insults therein.

          • “It appears Edzard dislikes the exposing of treachery within the bariatric surgery community…”
            no – it appears that this is a blog for discussing alternative medicine. I will block your comments, if they deviate too far from it.
            I told you that before but you seem to be a bit slow comprehending the message.

          • L-B still at it. Like a worn sticky plaster you try to pull off a finger and it just sticks to the next finger. Annoying and unsavory.
            Interesting how these types often pick up your punch-lines and attempt to reuse them against you. Rather immature I think how he conveniently ignores massive information supplied and continues to parrot the same lame arguments.

          • @Edzard

            Geir’s referring ignorantly to 1800’s chiropractic ethos is certainly not relevant to contemporary discussions of alternative medicine or chiropractic. You let his comments pass, however.

            I accept as a capitalist that this is your nicely and technically well executed blog, and that you may do in your forum what you wish. I thought fairness and respect, even for those of us you dislike, was a goal for this blog in 2017. I must’ve misunderstood that particular comment.

            Be well

          • I told you that before but you seem to be a bit slow comprehending the message.

            Could it be that lack of comprehension is one of the talents required for understanding the ‘benefits’ of alternology?

        • @Dr Michael Epstein on Sunday 22 January 2017 at 10:49

          Aaahhh, an Australian quack and pretend doctor who is overly emphatic and convinced of their knowledge.

          From this study;
          “Disclosures: D.E.H. is the CEO of Chiropractic BioPhysics Seminars, Inc., that distributes the cervical Denneroll product to health care providers (physicians, chiropractors, and physical therapists) in the United States. The Denneroll device is sold via prescription only to patients through licensed health care providers. And as such he profits from the sale of the Denneroll device to U.S. health care practitioners. The other authors have nothing to disclose.”

          Epstein is also a “medical marvel” (https://www.epsteinchiropractors.com/chiropractic-conditions);
          “Epstein Chiropractors delivers chiropractic solutions to treat spinal related health conditions including low back pain, neck pain, headaches, migraine, breathing difficulties, arthritis, scoliosis, fibromyalgia, whiplash, dizziness and so much more.”

          There is also other quackery on his website. Good for a laugh.

      • “As a surgeon I always teach that surgery is only to be resorted to when non-surgical methods have no effect.
        Likewise, only use drugs if necessary. But the only practitioners who can say “surgery will not help” are those capable of doing surgery. Likewise the only practitioners who can honestly say “drugs will not help” are those qualified and licensed to provide them,” stated Richard. I essentially agree with these very general statements.

        Richard’s LT memory again fails him as he has forgotten, or has feigned ignorance of, my having educated him that chiropractic is not faith-based. Of course, he has been quick to quote Wikipedia regarding the beginnings of chiropractic to support his contrived allegation, though even he should realize such a canard is blatantly weak. I note that Edzard laments Dr. Epstein’s use of Wiki but says nothing about its use by Richard: surely 2107 is a year of increased “respect” in this forum.

      • @ Richard

        “But the only practitioners who can say “surgery will not help” are those capable of doing surgery,” stated Richard. It does appear that some surgeons advertise big-time to give themselves the opportunity to convince patients that surgery IS necessary.

        “LOSE WEIGHT WITH THE LAP-BAND! SAFE 1 HOUR, FDA APPROVED; 1-800-GET-THIN; 1-800-953-5000; PPO INSURANCE; FREE INSURANCE VERIFICATION”

        It’s astounding to consider the lengths that some surgeons will traverse to enrich themselves at the expense of people who have a poor self-image and are psychologically vulnerable, but who are otherwise physically healthy. $33K is a lot of motivation for some, I suppose.

        Be well

  • This forum should respect fact based science, ethics & medicine as well as expose all that is not as respectfully as possible . However when fraudulent lies place patients or their finances at risk dismissive scourn is warranted if nothing more than to minimize the perpetration of unethical injustice.

  • Doctor Logos-Bios: Geir’s referring ignorantly to 1800’s chiropractic ethos is certainly not relevant to contemporary discussions of alternative medicine or chiropractic.

    Why sure it’s relevant, Doctor Logos-Bios. It might not be if chiropractors had cleaned their chiropractic house completely of all signs and symptoms of their original 1895 Chiropractic Spinalism and primitive notions of Nerve Interference. But, they haven’t. Not even close, as this segment about “chiropractic” from a year 2002 PBS Scientific American Frontiers documentary A Different Way to Heal? clearly shows:

    ADJUSTING THE JOINTS

    Watch this short video and pay close attention to chiropractic professors and PRACTITIONERS doctors Rowe (Gonstead Technic), Donaldson (Activator Methods) and Browning (Toggle Recoil) and listen as they EXPLAIN what it is they think and do. Then let’s hear your rationalization as to why 19th century Chiropractic Subluxationism isn’t, ahem … “relevant” in the 21st century.

    ~TEO.

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