Saturday, October 2, 2010

Who Uses Complementary Medicine to Treat Diabetic Neuropathy?

The use of complementary medicine (techniques that are not necessarily doctor-directed but that do not interfere with doctor-directed therapies) is very common in much of the world. In the United States, for example, about 48 per cent of the population uses one or more complementary therapies for healthcare, in addition to what their doctors prescribe. Only about 2 per cent of the population uses alternative medicine, which is a collection of techniques used instead of doctor-directed therapies.

Similar percentages of people who have diabetic neuropathy use complementary therapies. In a study reported in the Journal of Neurological Science, Drs. Brunelli and Gorson of the St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston, 43 per cent of 180 diabetic neuropathy patients surveyed admitted to using healing techniques their doctors did not prescribe. The survey found that 35 per cent took megavitamins, 30 per cent went to acupuncturist, 30 per cent used magnets, 22 per cent used herbs, and 21 per cent went to see a chiropractor. Most of the patients who reported trying complementary medicine reported that their pain was poorly controlled. College educated patients and patients with graduate and professional degrees were more likely to try complementary methods than patients who did not go to college or who did not finish high school.

About a third of the patients in the study said the complementary methods they tried worked for them. About half the patients in the study said they did not tell their doctors they were using complementary medicine. That can be problematic, especially in the case of herbal medicine--since herbs often work, just not necessarily in the way they are expected to work. To ensure that your complementary treatments do not interact with your medical treatments in unexpected and harmful ways, be sure to tell both your doctor and your herbalist, acupuncturist, massage therapist, or chiropractor about all the treatments you receive.

Selected Reference:

Shotton HR, Clarke S, Lincoln J. The effectiveness of treatments of diabetic autonomic neuropathy is not the same in autonomic nerves supplying different organs. Diabetes. 2003 Jan;52(1):157-64.

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