The Other I

September 27, 2010

Rationalizing the magic?

Although I am well aware that the influence of what we think can have a significant influence, either positive or negative, on our physical well-being, I am not a believer in homoeopathy or in most alternative medicines that aren’t backed up by some respectable research.

So it required some mental gymnastics on my part when I read that research showing that regular doses of glucosamide and chondriton have little effect in reducing joint pain.  Because I’ve been taking it for over a year and have noticed a significant difference.  

So am I kidding myself at the cost of several hundred dollars worth of supplements every year?  Is this merely a placebo effect that I could perhaps purchase more cheaply?

Ah well, I’m not giving up that easily.

The first thing I did was to read the original research in the British Medical Journal.  I found that the average dose given to the experimental subjects was on average half the supplement dose I take.  Somewhere several years ago I’d read not to expect any effects except from these relatively large dosages – that research already showed that smaller quantities don’t work.

Besides that, I take all research results about supplements, medicines, and nutrition as no more than reasonable working hypotheses that need to be tested on the individual whatever the experts say.  This is because of the nature of research, which works like roughly this:

Three groups are compared – one being treated with the real thing, one being given what they think is the real thing but is really a placebo, and one given nothing at all.  If at the end of the treatment period, there are statistically significant differences among the groups (that is, differences that were probably not random), the researches conclude that it is reasonable to conclude that the “real thing” (ie:  the experimental variable, whatever it was) had an independent effect.

BUT:

that does not mean that the “real thing” worked for everybody.  It just means it worked for more people or worked better than either the placebo or no treatment at all.  But there very well may have been people in the treatment group who derived no benefits at all.

And that is why I always treat research results as no more than “informed hypotheses” which have to be tested out on each individual even after extensive research has been done.

And it’s also why treatments in which no statistical differences were found among the groups who received “the real thing,” the placebo, and nothing at all might still be effective for some people.

I suspect in my case, my joint pain is radically reduced because I’m taking a larger than average dose.

But it might all be in my head.

So I’m going to stop taking the supplements for the next month and see what happens.

If my joints start aching again, I’m going back on the supplements.

Even if it is all in my head.

If it works, that’s good enough for me.

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