Seekers after unconventional treatments should do so on the understanding that they have not been proven to workHuman health is complicated, and while the history of medicine is often represented as a triumphant march from darkness into light, for many people it doesn’t feel like that. Partly this is because we take so much for granted. It’s hard to imagine a time when infection and childbirth were serious threats to life. But it’s also true that as life expectancy has extended and lifestyles have changed, new illnesses and conditions have taken the place of old ones. Dementia, obesity and anxiety disorders are among them. Sometimes a visit to the doctor doesn’t make us, or our loved ones, feel better. There is nothing wrong with looking beyond conventional medicine for activities or remedies that may help. But people should understand that such “alternatives” are not tested in the same way as the drugs or exercises prescribed by doctors. While manufacturers, practitioners and users of treatments including herbs and osteopathy may make claims about their effectiveness, the public should treat such claims with healthy scepticism: try something by all means, but do not mistake heartfelt testimonies or lengthy appointments for evidence-based medicine.
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