By Dr. Larry Chiaramonte
Both Dr. Ehrlich and I are open to considering alternative approaches to treatment. As we wrote in our book, “[M]uch of what people consider mainstream—the treatment they receive from their GPs and pediatricians—gives mainstream medicine a bad name. ‘I’m sick, and the doctor gives me medication that makes me feel sicker or affects other parts of my body, and it costs too much money to boot.’” Conscientious asthma treatment takes discipline and co-payments. Different ethnic groups resort to things like sleeping with a Chihuahua on their chests to draw out the disease, or drinking cat’s milk.
But Paul and I have a rule: show me the science. Our book has a whole chapter devoted to dissecting things that help and things that don’t. In every case, the things we support are not alternatives but adjunct therapies.
It’s tricky, however, when a different medical theory, which has some legitimacy in some areas of treatment, steps over the line. A recent story by blogger Martin Robbins, “The Lay Scientist” on the Guardian website, caught our eye. The British General Osteopathic Council has begun to crack down on its own members for making dubious claims about their treatments. Yet, the newspaper carried unchallenged this claim by an osteopath:
“Asthma medications mostly work by relaxing the airways or inhibiting the inflammation, but osteopathy has another approach. The expansion and contraction of the chest with breathing is like a pump which draws air into the lungs. It also helps in stimulating the drainage that clears the lungs of mucus, inflammation and irritants like dust particles and viruses. When this pumping mechanism isn’t working, these substances accumulate, exacerbating the condition.
“I use my hands to try to find and work on any tensions or misalignments that might be compromising normal motion. In asthma I may use gentle stretches to release the ribs and the soft tissues that are restricting them, or I might use gentle oscillatory movements, using the patient’s arm as a lever to promote drainage.”
It’s no excuse that this testimony appeared in the Life and Style section and not the health section. The editors should put more emphasis on Life and less on Style. I wonder if his patients know that at the same time he’s pumping their arms he’s also pulling their legs.
My advice? If you want to pump your arms, go to the gym. And don’t quit your inhaled corticosteroids.