Ancient vs. Modern: Can the two medical methods work together?

given to The Healing Pages by kind permission from the University of Michigan – Health System
link from www.med.umich.edu/opm/newspage/2002/altmed.htm

U-M CAMRC studies investigate safety, effectiveness of alternative medical treatments

ANN ARBOR, MI – Gene therapy, robotic surgery and artificial organs are all modern-day medical miracles that are making it possible for people to live longer, healthier lives. And so are treatments like Reiki (Ray-key), acupuncture, hypnosis and herbal medications – all ancient methods of medicine that have been used to heal patients for centuries.

But can these two medical methods work together? Are ancient treatments really a safe and effective alternative to some of the greatest advances in prescriptive and surgical medicine?

Through several studies, the University of Michigan Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research Center (CAMRC) has worked to answer many questions about alternative medicine, in addition to investigating its effectiveness alongside conventional medicine in diabetics, expectant mothers and patients with acute coronary syndrome.

“We’ve realized how important alternative medicine is to our patients and therefore, it needs to be very important to us,” says Sara Warber, M.D., co-director of the U-M CAMRC. “We’re trying to understand these different techniques so we can provide doctors with reliable information to use when making medical decisions for their patients.”

Complementary and alternative medicine covers a wide range of healing approaches not generally taught in medical schools, used in hospitals or reimbursed by medical insurance companies. However, one in three Americans seek alternative treatment such as Reiki.

Through one of its studies, CAMRC found that Reiki, a hands-on Japanese healing technique, is an effective method for diabetics experiencing nerve problems, especially in the legs. Reiki has worked to relieve some of the pain and numbness diabetic patients experience due to nerve damage related to their condition.

CAMRC has also examined the use of alternative medicines by pregnant women. Through a survey of women who had recently delivered at U-M, the Center gathered information about the women’s use of herbs, massage techniques and meditation practices during pregnancy.

“We found that methods such as massage and spinal manipulation were used and actually very helpful for the women during their pregnancy,” says Warber. “But we still have concerns about the use of herbs during pregnancy. We just don’t know enough yet about how herbs interact with the baby as it develops to recommend them.”

However, patients who have experienced acute coronary syndrome were found to use several herbal medications and vitamin supplements including ginko, garlic and ginseng. In fact, the study found that about 60 percent of this group were using a form of alternative medicine.

Some popular methods among this group are chiropractic, meditation and hypnosis. Any mind-body technique was shown to be very helpful for people with heart disease because it lowers blood pressure. The CAMRC is the only NIH-funded center to analyze heart disease and the use of alternative medicine.

Still, Warber says, the Center wanted to find out why people turn to alternative methods, especially if they have some of the best of modern medicine available to them.

“What we’ve found from our one-on-one interviews and surveys is that people, for example who had a heart attack, begin to re-evaluate their life when their health changes,” she says. “And that often leads them to see their health in a new way, often beyond conventional methods.”

Nevertheless, it’s still important to scientifically examine these alternative methods to find out what parts of the body they affect, and to ultimately understand why they work.

One of the largest concerns is whether alternative methods can compliment conventional methods or not. Warber believes there are many alternative methods that fit very well with conventional ones.

“It’s up to physicians to understand the potential risks, but at the same time they need to remain open to the idea of their patients using alternative methods,” says Warber. “Often, patients are reluctant to tell their physician about these alternatives because they worry about how the physician will react.”

From both a patient and physician prospective, alternative medicines should always be looked at logically. It’s never safe to assume that a method or medicine has been around for so many centuries because it actually works, advises Warber.

Any patient who is considering using an alternative method in lieu of or in addition to traditional medicine should always talk it over with his or her health care provider. A physician will be able to help a patient balance an alternative method with a conventional one.

Facts about alternative treatment methods:

  • Complementary and alternative medicine covers a wide range of healing approaches not generally taught in medical schools, used in hospitals or reimbursed by medical insurance companies.
  • One in three Americans seek alternative ancient treatments such as Reiki, acupuncture, hypnosis and herbal medications.
  • One CAMRC study found that Reiki, a hands-on Japanese healing technique, has been an effective method for diabetics experiencing nerve problems, especially in the legs.
  • Pregnant women should avoid the use of herbal medications because too little is still know about how it affects the unborn child.
  • Nearly 60 percent of acute coronary syndrome patients in the CAMRC study used an alternative treatment method: herbal medications (ginko, garlic or ginseng), chiropractic, meditation and hypnosis.

For more information, visit the following Web sites:

U-M Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research Center
http://www.med.umich.edu/camrc/

U-M Health Topics A – Z: U-M Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research Center
http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/topics/alt02.htm

U-M Health Topics A – Z: What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?
http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/topics/alt01.htm

U-M Health Topics A – Z: Reiki Technique Study to Control Chronic Pain in Diabetic Neuropathy
http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/topics/alt03.htm

U-M Health Topics A – Z: Herbal Medicines Reported to Have Sedative/Hypnotic Effects or Effects on Blood Glucose or Blood Pressure
http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/topics/diabet14.htm

U-M Health Topics A – Z: Diabetes and Illness
http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/prescrpt/herb03.htm

U-M Health Topics A – Z: Herbal Medicines Reported to Have Effects on Coagulation
http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/prescrpt/herb04.htm

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
http://nccam.nih.gov/

Clinical Trials.gov – Linking Parents to Medical Research
http://clinicaltrials.gov

Written by Krista Hopson

For more information, contact Kara Gavin or Carrie Hagen, UMHS Public Relations, 734-764-2220, or by e-mail.

 

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