How to Avoid Quacks and Snake Oil Treatments
I’m a 41 y/o female with New Daily Persistent Headache. I’ve seen so many doctors in and out of my health care plan, mostly without any progress or relief. (This is a new discussion thread born from another discussion thread.) To be honest, I’ve tried several “snake oil” cures. At first, the doctors diagnosed my headache as chronic migraines and when the prescription drugs they gave me didn’t work, every friend, neighbor, acquaintance, and cousin of an aunt of an acquaintance was suggesting something new. I made sure that any supplements I purchased had a money back guarantee, and I used that guarantee several times to get refunds for stuff that didn’t work. Those were the early years, and I learned a lot. Now I’m a lot more cautious. It usually takes a couple visits to form an opinion about a new provider, so there’s always a risk that you’ll spend some money before you realize the person is not reputable.
I’ve seen several alternative health care providers, and here are some suggestions re: vetting new providers. Though a lot of it seems like common sense, it can be easy to forget simple things when you’re in pain or desperate to find relief for a loved one. My mom still calls me with suggestions from daytime tv! My numbers help delineate thoughts and are not necessarily indicative of importance.
1) First and foremost, check the state licensing board to find out more about the person before the initial visit, whether they are actually licensed or if they’ve had any disciplinary action. Where I live, acupuncturists and other therapists are required to be licensed.
2) I also check Yelp for any reviews. You’d be surprised at how many licensed professionals are reviewed on Yelp. You can always Google the person, too, and that might reveal comments on people’s blogs or other review sites.
3) The next thing you might consider is the location of their business – is it in someone’s home or an actual office space and how long have they been there. If they just moved in, you might look for previous addresses or business names. 3) It’s also important to note how the person likes to be paid, just so you can be prepared, but it can also be informative. Cash only might be a red flag.
4) Aside from all this, ask for credentials – where the person went to school, how long have they studied and where. My current acupuncturist studied under a woman who not only learned medicine in China but has also been to med school and is a licensed physician in the US. There was a certain measure of comfort knowing that my acupuncturist was taught by someone who had both perspectives on health care.
5) In the meeting, I pay attention to what kind of information the provider asks about. If they just want to jump right into a treatment without asking a lot of questions, to me that says the treatment isn’t really tailored to my problem and therefore unlikely to be effective. Why would I pay money for that? I’m seeking a professional opinion on my treatment, and so I expect a treatment that is carefully considered.
6) I also appreciate it when providers spend some time educating me on the treatment and its potential effects. Obviously, I’m wary of side effects given the horrible time I’ve had with prescription meds. This wariness has seeped into my view of alternative treatments, too. So, I always consider the downside to trying new things. If I’m just going to be out money, then that’s an easier risk to assess than if the treatment is going to make me feel worse. if the treatment is going to make me feel worse, will it be a long time or brief? Will I be confined to the house with a horrible GI reaction? I look for knowledge in my providers -whether they really know what they’re talking about and whether they’re going to share it with me. I’ve seen three acupuncturists, and the difference between the first and the last is like night and day. The first explained nothing, taught me nothing, and didn’t spend much time on questions. Ultimately that one achieved nothing except taking my money. The one I’m seeing now spends a great deal of time educating me on how Chinese medicine works, what my pulses mean, how the body systems work, and what I can do in my daily routine, with my food, and with my body to improve my health.
7) The other thing that I like to get is corroboration. It isn’t always easy, but it is possible with a bit of effort to check the information given to you by a provider. I’ve been a part of several groups within Kaiser and nothing I’ve learned in those classes or groups has contradicted what I’ve learned from my current acupuncturist. Yes, Chinese medicine is a different approach, but if your provider spends time educating you about it, then you’ll find there’s a logic that is easy to follow and verify.
8) With supplements and essential oils and stuff like that, it’s important to verify what the ingredients are and where they’re sourced. That can be challenging to do if the company selling it doesn’t want to give you that info, but that reluctance is also informative. The same principles apply to vetting products as with providers. The good news is that, as I mentioned earlier, many products come with a money-back guarantee. I also feel more secure if someplace like Whole Foods carries a supplement. Though I don’t rely on their corporate integrity to ensure the products actually work, I feel like there’s an added layer of protection in their decision to stock an item vs. whether the item is only available online, and there’s also a person at the store you can ask about the product.
I hope this helps. The biggest thing for me is the reviews – being able to get firsthand info about a person or product is one of the benefits of social media (imo). Though it’s true that some of that can be faked, more often than not, you’ll find helpful information that way.
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Thank you for re-posting your experience and information here @quazar. @predictable, thank you for recognizing the value of Quazar’s post and requesting that it be pulled out into a topic of its own.
One thing that I would add about reviews is that people tend to submit reviews when they are particularly pleased or particularly disgruntled. This often leads to polarized viewpoints. I like that you balance the opinion you deduce from reviews along with other criteria.
Hello quasar, my name is Lacey and I have been in your shoes when I was younger. The only thing that took away my headaches ( and they were bad ) was a good nasel spray. I would do both nostrils and it would loosen up the “mountain” of problems and gone were the headaches, worth a try, good luck.
I began having horrific headaches at age 35. (Aprox.30 yrs.ago) I used every remedy available! I was informed by my Dentist that I had been clenching my teeth. She showed me the very obvious signs…. the biting surfaces of my molars were almost flattened(the cusps were worn from my clenching) My Dentist then made a “night guard”. It is like the clear retainers people wear after braces. Except that my night guard is not flexible. After 2yrs. I had holes in the “guard” showing the exact portion of each tooth that was effected. I am now 64 yrs. old & aprox every 3-4 years my DDS makes a new “guard” for me.
My Gynecologist felt that my headaches were also caused by hormonal shifts & changes.I resisted her diagnosis as the “night guard” had lessened the intensity of my headaches. However by age 40 my periods became irregular & unmanageable with very heavy bleeding !!
I tried to deal with this exhausting “phase”. After extensive research and appointments with 6 other Gynecologists we all concurred that a Hysterectomy was the only way to reverse my condition.
Three weeks post-op I realized that I was headache free !!!!!! I CRIED tears of joy and regret( for the years I lost,coping with the PAIN from headaches & heavy periods)
I continue to wear the “night guard” as a preventative measure.
Quazar thankyou. I am a person who has been disabled all my life going in and out of hospitals which some proceedures were failures or not necessary. When I became an adult I started being more causious of what my doctors wanted to do and why. I based my responses on gut feelings about my doctor and whether the procedure was necessary or not. In my relationships with people of many different professions I came across a chiropractor who treated me for mostly aches and pains. But he introduced me to suppliments instead of just prescriptions . For many years I suffered with vertigo. It got so bad and frequent that I went to a neurologist. He recommended surgery. (not surprised) I refused. He prescribed antivert. It stopped the vertigo but did not stop it. I researched vertigo in vitamin suppliments and found some vitamins that were stopping vertigo. They did not work. Than I found a vitamin for ringing in the ears. Something that I have before the dizziness. I tried this supplement and it works. As for my doctor I told him about it which he was not aware of but let me take this with his check ups to make sure this was not hurting any of my orgins. So like you say others should be aware and mindful of who and what they are taking.
@quazar thank you for some great advice. Another site I’ve found that keeps you up on the latest health scams going around is the FDA’s health fraud page.
Don’t search on internet! Who am I going to call? Myth busters – Medscape. (My neurologist MD and PhD, says to check out things in Medscape. It is free, jargon free and PEER reviewed. ). Look for Meta-studies (a major Study of several studies,) that are evidence based. Always look for WIIFM ( what’s in it for me) articles which look at “cherry picked” studies to support whatever they are selling.
Find out if Insurance is Provided for the service/product
Look for FDA approval. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Truly, see YOUR doctor.
Basically, you don’t know-, what you don’t
Know! A while back I broke my neck. When I woke from a coma five weeks later in the hospital l could not hear. My neurologist clearly explained how several sets of nerves in the inner part of my brain had been shaken up by the “neck breaking”?impact. I thought it was Closed Head TBI.
Dr Ron. Your well-being is my commitment
Hi Dr. Ron @user_cha272278,
I use Internet searches a lot and don't find a problem with it. There is a lot of information available but like I think you are saying is that there is both good and bad information out there and how do we discern what's good. You brought up some really good points about looking for FDA approval, seeing if insurance is provided for the service or product and discussing it with your doctor.
My problem is that there are a lot of doctors out there that do not always have the latest information on research FDA approved or not. I will always discuss major treatments or supplements/drugs with my doctor or pharmacist but in the end, the decision to buy and try lies with me and not the doctor.
You are spot on — you don't know, what you don't know. So it's up to you to find out using every tool available to you including doctors, pharmacists, medical journals, FDA, NIH and other websites…and my favorite Google Scholar (https://scholar.google.com) where I can find both good and bad research information to evaluate or discuss with my doctor.
Thank you for your insight!
I also have Tinnitus. I got the ringing ears right when I started the blood pressure medication; Metoprolol I ordered a supplement called Synapse XT which I started taking, but after taking maybe for a week, I quit taking, because I came down with another health issue. It says to take two a day. I've been thinking about starting back on them. You mention taking a supplement for your ringing ears. What are you taking or did take, and how long did you take it before noticing it got better. Thank you in advance for any advice you may have.
Wow! So much good content in all of these posts. I am 70 years old and have had so many different illnesses. My immune system, my thyroid, parathyroid and chronic fatigue immune dysfunction were challenging in getting a diagnosis and treatment. My husband had frontotemporal dementia which created multiple opportunities for questioning and researching. I have used acupuncture, prayer, complete rest, therapy and much more in an effort to feel better. I had malaria and bacillary dysentery as a child and am continuing to research the long term impact of malaria on the immune system, if it exists.
Over the years I have learned that research in relationship to my medical world is critical. I use the internet, periodicals, my doctor's and my pharmacist's feedback. One resource stands out above all the rest…well monitored chat groups related to the topic. The group I belonged to of caregivers of people diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia was invaluable. We talked about every facet of caregiving, shared tips on coping with incontinence, etc., discussed Medicaid and other resources and medications. I learned about Seroquel and possible uses for someone with FTD far ahead of most of the medical community. Now I hear of the expanded use of Seroquel.
Anyway, this Mayo Clinic Connect is quickly becoming one of my favorite places for asking questions and sharing information.
Recently things seem a little different with my doctors. I am learning that I need to educate myself about possible long term effects of surgeries. For instance, the removal of my parathyroid glands had to happen but I just found out, through these forums, that I should have been paying close attention to my calcium intake because the parathyroid glands manage the distribution and use of calcium in the body. Recently my bone density was off and they suggested calcium supplements. Why didn't they stress that as part of my discharge instructions and why haven't there been regular follow-ups since the surgery? I took what I learned here and researched it out through the internet. You tube has great videos including professional meetings, etc. held at universities.
Sorry to be so long winded.