The Limits of Alternative Medicine

Filed in Living by on July 17, 2014 2 Comments

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When faced with a medical problem, you basically have two potential courses of action. You can pursue what is considered more natural means of treatment, like healthy nutrition, vitamins and minerals, exercise, massage therapy, chiropractic, and acupuncture, all of which are collectively referred to as “alternative” or “holistic” medicine. Or, you can opt for the standard visit to a physician.

My wife and I are pretty big fans of alternative medicine. Not in a kooky kind of way, but rather, we believe, in a healthy, common sense way. It seems that whenever you go to a medical doctor, they rarely ask many questions to determine the source of your problem, but rather often just throw a bunch of prescriptions at the symptoms. Then, after multiple medications have failed to produce the necessary relief, they send you to a specialist. And what does this learned person usually recommend? Surgery!

So my wife and I attempt to solve minor medical issues, like aches and pains, through natural means. We eat healthfully, take nutritional supplements, exercise, stretch, get massages, see a chiropractor for neck and back issues, etc. Most of the time these methods provide the necessary relief.

But not in every case.

About four years ago, my sweet wife Elaine began developing stiffness and pain in her neck. We thought it might be due to poor posture, so she went to her chiropractor. He “adjusted” her neck and gave her stretching and strengthening exercises to perform. The problem continued to worsen. I am a personal trainer, so I gave her suggestions on how to improve her posture, such as when she is reading a book or using the computer.

Elaine’s symptoms began to spread to other areas of her body. She developed tingling and pain in her arms and hands. At first it was mild, and then it became quite painful. Once again, both we and her chiropractor thought it was just due to her stiff neck, with symptoms simply radiating down her arms. She decided to go to an acupuncturist, but this also failed to result in any improvement in her condition.

Then Elaine began to develop nervousness and anxiety. Being a very calm person by nature, this was a highly unusual and alarming development. Her anxiety and limb pain became so severe that one day we had to take her to the emergency room of the local hospital. We were perplexed and becoming extremely concerned about her unusual, complicated, and rapidly deteriorating condition.

It was soon thereafter, during a massage treatment, that we finally came to our senses. Our massage therapist, who is very experienced, was also quite concerned about Elaine. She told us, “You know, I am as big a fan of natural healing methods as both of you, but I’ve come to learn that ‘if your house is on fire, you need to call a fireman.’ I’ll do the best I can, but Elaine really needs to see a medical doctor.”

We heeded her good advice. Since I volunteer at a hospital, I have the benefit of being able to consult nurses to find out which doctors are the most skilled in any given specialty. My nurse friends recommended Elaine go see a highly respected pain management specialist, so I called him and set up an appointment.

Well, after examining Elaine for just a few minutes, the doctor declared that he was quite certain her symptoms were being caused by some sort of chemical deficiency. He ordered a thorough blood test, and within three days we had the answer: Elaine had a severe vitamin D deficiency. Apparently some people develop an inability to adequately process and absorb vitamin D, which causes the nervous system to overactivate, resulting in stiffness, numbness, tingling, and anxiety. Vitamin D, we learned, is actually a hormone, and is essential to the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Thank God we had gone to see this doctor. Now that she is taking prescription doses of vitamin D and has gotten her Vitamin D levels back into normal range, she feels much better. That doctor saved her from spiraling pain and terrible suffering. She still has some residual symptoms, but we can’t imagine how bad it could have gotten had we had not gone to see a physician.

There are many other examples of otherwise intelligent people neglecting proper medical treatment, to their detriment, or even their demise. The brilliant Steve Jobs elected to have his pancreatic cancer treated with acupuncture, dietary supplements, and juices. Had he obtained standard medical treatment, he could have possibly beaten the cancer, or at least lived quite a bit longer.

Elaine and I still believe that many simple aches and pains are best solved through a healthy lifestyle and common sense, natural healing methods. But we have also learned that “if your house is burning down,” absolutely go and see a medical doctor. The ten or so years they spent in medical school, along with all of their medical experience, can save you a lot of suffering and may even save your life.

About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

Comments (2)

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  1. Meredith Brewer says:

    Hi Tim. Great article. I will be sure to pass it along to Dr. Black. He will appreciate seeing this.
    Thank you, Meredith

    • Tim McIntyre says:

      Dr. Black, a pain management specialist in Naples, FL, is the great doctor who saved Elaine from so much suffering! Thanks, Meredith, for passing along my retelling of his much appreciated healing to The Man himself!

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