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Four outdated medical treatments to skip

October 3, 2016 (Updated: August 22, 2018)
Lily Moran

Doctors don’t know everything. Most people know that—but when that white coat starts speaking, we assume they are an absolute authority. We have a tendency to respect the uniform, without question, no matter what he or she is saying. But good healthcare means good communication. If you aren’t acting as your own advocate, sooner or later it will come back to haunt you. Especially since, in some cases, a large number of doctors are simply behind the medical times, and, as a result, could be mistreating patients.

Today, I want to take a look at four common problems that are commonly mistreated. If you’ve got one—and your doctor is prescribing bad or outdated cures—remember, you shouldn’t simply acquiesce and nod. Remedies should be the end of a conversation—not an excuse to move on to the next patient.

It’s up to you to ensure you’re getting the best care. And that starts with an issue that nearly every one of us will face, at some point in our lives.

1. When antacids don’t work

44% of Americans get heartburn at least once a month, and 7% suffer daily.

At one point, antacids were thought of as a cure for all indigestion—that all indigestion was caused by acid traveling up the esophagus. But recently, we’ve discovered that just isn’t the case.

50-70% of indigestion-sufferers don’t have an acid problem at all, and even the strongest prescription antacids don’t bring relief. Right now, we think that this type of heartburn is often caused by bile from the liver, though there’s a lot of research still needed. Stress can play a major role as well.

If your heartburn isn’t caused by acid reflux, strong antacids like PPIs won’t do a thing for you.

And even if you do have acid reflux, antacids shouldn’t be the answer. Just about all acid reflux is caused by lifestyle choices—like overconsumption of alcohol, smoking, lack of exercise, or overeating the wrong sorts of foods.

Antacids merely try to paper over the underlying issue. And they aren’t harmless palliatives either—strong antacids, like PPIs, have been shown to increase the risk of heart attacks.

That’s no solution. Through talking to your doctor, you should identify and correct the lifestyle choices causing you problems. Natural antacid alternatives may help as well. Antacids are dangerous—and entirely unnecessary.

2. Drugs don’t solve biochemical deficiencies

Many doctors are quick to pull out the prescription pad to deal with any psychological problem.

But, in most cases, that’s an attempt to find a quick fix for a deeper problem.

It’s certainly true—some people aren’t able to produce some hormones, and they have a physical imbalance that can be helped with medicine.

But as we’ve studied biochemistry, we’ve discovered that it’s a system with strong feedback loops. And strong drugs can cause a cascade effect—creating more problems than they solve.

Simply put, drugs should be the last option. Trying to find biochemical stasis through medicine is a near-impossible balancing act, and doesn’t do anything to address the root cause of the initial imbalance.

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A better option is to find natural, healthy alternatives. For instance, a new study found that curcumin—an active ingredient in turmeric—is more effective for treating depression than Prozac.

There are plenty of other examples. If you’re suffering from a problem like depression, it pays to know the healthy diet and supplement choices you can make to support your mental health.

And, of course, changes to your lifestyle—like increasing sleep, exercise, and practicing breathing exercises—often make the biggest difference of all. Until you’ve exhausted lifestyle and diet options, you shouldn’t put your faith in Big Pharma.

3. Many stents are unnecessary

Stents for your heart—to strengthen and widen arteries, and help clear blockages—are a very effective treatment for heart attacks.

But many doctors use stents as a preventative measure as well. And, in 13% of cases, those stents do no good at all.

What’s more, while surgeries are safer than they’ve ever been, they always entail risk. Moreso when you’re operating on a sick organ.

Like tonsillectomies, we’re finding that stents are overused, and often unnecessary. Before you take a doctor’s recommendation for a procedure, make sure it’s being done for the right reasons.

4. Steroid injections won’t help your back

As you age, you are much more likely to have back pain caused by nerve inflammation. It can be excruciating, and you’re often ready to try anything to calm the pain down.

Today, that often includes steroid shots. In 2014, there were 2.2 million steroid shots given to Medicare patients for back pain.

Only one problem. The research shows that those steroid injections don’t do a thing.

A study published two years ago found that pain relief was equal for patients who got lidocaine and a steroid shot, and those who got a lidocaine shot alone.

The truth is, the best possible way to conquer back pain is through physical therapy. But shots are easier, and are still widely prescribed.

Don’t use one. The evidence shows they don’t help at all.

In most cases, your doctor will know more about the best treatments available for whatever ails you. But not in all of them. You owe it to yourself to do your own research, and make sure you aren’t getting an expensive placebo or, worse, a treatment that can cause damage. Or a band-aid that obscures the real issue.

Medicine is constantly moving forward. And most doctors make every effort to keep up. But there will always be holes in their knowledge. Luckily, today, you can fill those holes easily with a little research of your own.

References

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