There Is a Reason Alternative Treatments Are So Attractive

I have spent the last several hours reading an endless stream of online posts criticizing alternative treatments in healthcare. On the one hand, I understand many of the criticisms pointed directly at legitimate quacks pedaling miracle treatments that do nothing, treatments that can also be dangerous. On the other hand, critics of alternative medicine rarely acknowledge why such treatments are so attractive.

I am a big proponent of alternative medicine in theory. I am not a fan of quackery, so let us get that out of the way. But I am also smart enough to know that traditional Western medicine is not all it is cracked up to be. If those who spent so much time criticizing the alternatives would be more honest about traditional medicine’s shortcomings, we might be able to fix much of what is wrong with our healthcare system.

Millions on Unnecessary Treatments

A 2017 study conducted among more than 2,000 AMA-affiliated doctors noted that as much as 20% of all medical care recommended in this country is completely unnecessary. That is astounding. But it doesn’t end there.

A CBS News report from 2023 estimated that Americans spent about $134 million on unnecessary prescriptions, health screenings, and diagnostic tests the year before. My guess is that their number is too low. Why? Because the data came from employer-sponsored health plans. What about government health plans? What about healthcare services covered by patients out of pocket?

Unnecessary prescriptions and tests are just the start. How many of us have spent a considerable amount of money on repeat visits to the doctor’s office only to not be offered any effective means of treatment? I know I have.

The Prescription Painkiller Crisis

Nothing explains the attractiveness of alternative treatments quite as well as the prescription painkiller crisis. For decades, the medical industry has been pushing highly addictive drugs on people suffering from chronic pain. A crisis developed and we all stood around scratching our heads and asking why. We know why. And yet, the crisis persists.

It persists in part because the medical industry is quick to shut down any alternatives as being nonscientific. Meanwhile, there are scores of chronic pain patients who are sick and tired of feeling the devastating effects of taking prescription painkillers month after month. They are more than ready to try alternatives.

The Alternatives Are Out There

Patients who have lost faith in traditional medicine have options if they know where to look. Indeed, the alternatives are out there. One of the hottest right now is plant-based medicine made available through state Medical Card programs. If you don’t know what this means, think medical cannabis.

KindlyMD operates a number of clinics in the state of Utah. Their list of services includes medical evaluations for both initial and renewal Medical Cards. Incidentally, the number one reason for getting a Medical Card in Utah is to treat chronic pain.

Other alternatives include:

  • Injection therapies.
  • PRP and stem cell therapies.
  • Spinal cord stimulation.
  • Kyphoplasty (specifically for back pain).

The list goes on and on. Here is the point: alternative medicine flourishes because there is a market for it. The market exists because traditional western medicine fails so many patients. The worst part of it all is that consumers continue spending more money every year on traditional medicine that does not work.

I agree that some alternative therapies are nothing more than quackery. But most that survive the test of time actually work. That is why they stick around. They deserve a lot more attention from a healthcare industry too quick to shut them down.

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