Sorting Through a World of Remedies: How Do You Know What Works?

When you trip and sprain your ankle, your friend tells you a story about her knee: one day, it really began to hurt. She read online about an herbal supplement that counteracts joint pain, so she bought the pills and took them for a week. Her knee felt much better after a few days! She recommends that you should take the pills too, because they’re sure to help your ankle. However, when you went for your x-ray, your doctor didn’t mention any supplements.

You want to get better, but who’s right? With the Internet always at our fingertips, we can instantly bring up thousands of pages of information about any medical condition. From homeopathy, antibiotics and antacids to chiropractors, physical therapists and reflexologists, how do you find the safest, most effective way to get better?

A Universal Benchmark

If you have the scientific method in your back pocket, you will have a useful measuring stick for any medical remedy that comes your way. The scientific method has several steps that can be applied to almost any question, including whether or not a certain medicine is effective.

  • How do you answer the question at hand?
  • What is the theory behind a possible answer, and what does the theory predict will happen?
  • Has someone tested that theory (“hypothesis”) against a systematic batch of observed evidence?
  • If the theory proves true in that test, have other people done the same experiment with the same rules and gotten the same results?

Seeing Through Questionable Treatments

When we study the effectiveness of medicines and treatments, it’s important to make absolutely sure of several things. If a medicine or treatment you’re considering can’t answer to these criteria, you should look elsewhere.

  • Was it proven by multiple studies conducted on a large, truly random sample of people?
  • Did the studies control for factors like health, age, size or gender?
  • Were the studies double-blind? (This means neither the people getting the tested treatment nor the doctors administering it knew which was real and which was placebo.)
  • Could the studies be replicated by a variety of researchers using the same rules?

Other Red Flags

Beware of medicines that are labeled for “self-limiting conditions.” This means the medicine should be used only for problems that will clear up on their own, anyway—like a minor bruise or the common cold—so what does that tell you about the effectiveness of the medicine? Always weigh the replicable scientific evidence against anecdotes, even if they come from someone you love. And if a non-medically-licensed practitioner tells you to stop your medication, or recommends a supplement, check with your doctor, too.

You’re always in good hands with the gentle, caring, board-certified physicians like those at Non-Surgical Orthopaedics. Schedule an appointment today by calling (770) 421-1420 or clicking on our web contact form.

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