What do you think of when you think of alternative medicine?
“…there’s no such thing as conventional or alternative or complementary or integrative or holistic medicine. There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t. And the best way to sort it out is by carefully evaluating scientific studies – not by visiting Internet chat rooms, reading magazine articles, or talking to friends.”
Paul Offit, MD on Do You Believe in Magic
Do you think of acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Reiki, or reflexology?
And do you wonder if they really work?
Evidence Based Medicine, or No?
Unfortunately, there are many things that parents do for which there is absolutely no evidence that they can actually help their kids.
Some parents are even encouraged to do them by well meaning pediatricians, who may not know the latest evidence about:
exposing jaundiced babies to sunlight – not only does it not work, unless they were in the sun all day long (this is done in some parts of the world, but under tinted windows to block UV and infrared light), it isn’t very practical and the AAP advises against it
- changing your child’s toothbrush after they have strep throat – a study has shown it is not necessary
- alternating Tylenol and Motrin – it isn’t necessary, promotes fever phobia, and can be dangerous if you mix up the times or dosages
- putting kids on a BRAT diet when they have diarrhea – not necessary and doesn’t help kids get better any faster
For other therapies, your pediatrician isn’t likely to recommend them unless they are a so-called integrative or holistic pediatrician.
“Attaching the word “therapy” to the back end of an activity is an attempt to give it a status it may not deserve – and that status is subsequently used to garner insurance coverage, hospital resources, consumer patronage, and research dollars. It is also used to constrain how we think about an intervention – implying that perhaps there is some specific mechanism as work, when none need exist.”
Steven Novella on Aroma”therapy”
These non-evidence based “therapies” include:
- acupressure – acupuncture without the needles
- amber teething necklaces – if your baby’s amber teething necklace doesn’t seem to be doing anything, it isn’t because it’s fake and not made of genuine Baltic amber, it’s because it’s a teething necklace…
- chiropractic care of newborns and infants – understand that chiropractors don’t adjust real dislocations or misalignments in your spine, but instead manipulate what they think are subluxations that block the flow of energy that prevent your body’s innate ability to heal itself from working. Since these subluxations can’t be seen on xray, it makes you wonder why they chiropractors do so many xrays, doesn’t it?
- craniosacral therapy (osteopathy) – has to do with tides and rhythms of cerebrospinal fluid, which these practitioners think they can feel and manipulate…
- dry or wet cupping – what’s next, leeches?
- essential oils – they don’t even smell good a lot of the times…
- gripe water for colic
homeopathic “medicines” for teething, colic, gas, and the flu, etc. – do you know what’s in Oscillococcinum, the homeopathic flu medicine? It’s a mix of the pancreatic juice, liver, and heart of a duck, although it is diluted so many times, it is only the memory of those substances that remain in the little pills you take. How does that help treat your flu symptoms?
- hyperbaric oxygen therapy – this can actually help treat folks with carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness (divers), but HBOT isn’t going to help your autistic child
- hypnosis and hypnotherapy for pain, anxiety, and insomnia – hypnosis might work as a distraction technique, but there is no good evidence beyond that
- magic socks – please don’t make your kids wear ice-cold socks at night, either with or without first covering them with Vicks VapoRub. It’s as helpful as putting a raw, cut onion in their socks, which your shouldn’t do either…
- magnetic field therapy – do your kids still wear one of those magnetic bracelets to “help” their balance?
- mindfulness – while a nice idea and it may help you relax, it doesn’t have all of the health benefits that folks claim
- restrictive and fad diets – from gluten-free diets for kids who don’t have Celiac disease to the GAPS and Gluten Free-Casein Free (GFCF) Diet, these diets don’t help, can be difficult and expensive to follow, and can be dangerous if kids don’t get all of the nutrients they need
Have you tried any of these therapies on your kids?
If you have, do you understand that they “work” by way of meridians (acupuncture), the memory of water, like cures like, and law of the minimum dose (homeopathy), energy and spinal fluid tides (craniosacral therapy), manipulating energy fields in your hands or feet (reflexology), and spiritual energy (Reiki)?
What’s the Harm of Trying Alternative Treatments?
But even if you don’t go to a holistic pediatrician that recommends any of these therapies that don’t work, does your pediatrician discourage you from trying them?
If they do, how strongly?
Do they say it isn’t going to work, so don’t do it, or do they use more permissive phrasing?
The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, tells parents that amber teething necklaces don’t work and pose a risk for strangulation and choking, but then gives advice for “parents who choose to use these necklaces.”
Since they don’t work, why not just tell them to save their money and not use them?
Do you ever wonder, what’s the harm in using these things that don’t work?
“Rather than getting distracted by alluring rituals and elaborate pseudoscientific explanations for how they work, we should focus on maximizing the non-specific elements of the therapeutic interaction, and adding that to physiological or psychological interventions that have specific efficacy.”
Steven Novella on EMDR and Acupuncture – Selling Non-specific Effects
If your pediatrician knows that homeopathic medicines aren’t going to work, but tells you to try them if you want, what are they going to let you try next – black salve, coffee enemas, colloidal silver, dry needling, earthing, faith healing, iridology, psychic surgery, slapping, tapping, or shamanism?
In addition to kids actually being harmed by many of these alternative therapies and by missing out on real medicine that could have helped them, putting so much focus on these non-evidence based “treatments” is a waste of time and money that could go towards really helping people.
And be many of the folks who pursue and push these types of alternative treatments also push myths and propaganda about vaccines or seek to skip or delay their child’s vaccines, choosing to follow a follow a non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule that leaves their kids at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.
Don’t be fooled.
Learn to be skeptical, stick to the evidence, and stick with medicine that works.
What to Know About Evidence Based Medicine
There is plenty of evidence that alternative therapies don’t work and can do harm. Stick with medicine that works to keep your kids safe and healthy.
More on Evidence Based Medicine
- Beware of Non-Evidence-Based Treatments
- The American Academy of Pediatrics has an Integrative Medicine Problem
- Naturopathic Diaries
- Scientific skepticism about vaccine safety: you’re doing it wrong
- Learning the Hard Way: My Journey from #AntiVaxx to Science
- Caring for Sick Kids: Know the Difference Between “Natural Remedy” Facts and Fallacies
- Here be Dragons: Caring for Children in a Dangerous Sea of sCAM
- A Mother I Never Met Changed My Mind About Vaccines
- Evaluating Vaccines Requires Critical Thinking
- AAP – Amber Teething Necklaces: A Caution for Parents
- Quackery for Kids
- Six signs you are being treated by a quack
- No matter how often I read about treatments like this, I still can’t believe parents actually subject their children to them
- No, torturing colicky infants by sticking them with acupuncture needles won’t calm them
- A Brief Look at Homeopathy for the Children
- Researching the Magic of Homeopathy
- Homeopathy: The Ultimate Fake
- 10 Best Alternative Therapies of All Times
- Don’t just stand there, do nothing! The difference between science-based medicine and quackery
- Mindfulness No Better Than Watching TV
- Aromatherapy: Making Dollars out of Scents
- Cranio-sacral therapy: misleading? dishonest? unethical?
- Subluxation: Chiropractic’s Elusive Buzzword
- Separating Fact from Fiction in the Not-So-Normal Newborn Nursery: Chiropractic and Craniosynostosis
- EMDR and Acupuncture – Selling Non-specific Effects
- Another Child Harmed by Pseudomedicine: Lead Poisoning from a “Homeopathic Healing” Bracelet
- Acupuncture for Infant Colic Part 2: Acupuncture Boogaloo
- Maximized Living: “5 Essentials” of Chiropractic Marketing Propaganda
- Reflexology for Babies?
- “Magic Socks?” Alternative Medicine’s Obsession With Your Feet.
- How Pseudoscientific Quacks Defend Child Abuse
- Conviction Upheld For Parents Who Let Their Toddler Die of Meningitis
- Book – Do You Believe in Magic?
Last Updated on May 20, 2018 by Vincent Iannelli, MD
One thought on “Is There Evidence for That Therapy, or No?”
There are so many things parents do based on the advice from friends or family. Some are just not helpful, but some can be dangerous. If in doubt, talk to your pediatrician!
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