Where we blog about wellness, fitness & more

Stupid medicine includes old advertisement from the 1800s for sasparilla as a cure-all.
Claimed to be an effective remedy for scrofulous disorders and a variety of other ailments. A sickly woman, seated in a chair, being served Ayer's Sarsaparilla. Also shown in this outdoor scene are two children, a dog, and another woman.

‘Stupid Medicine’ Catches On: The Causes and Effect of Medical Overtreatment

Claimed to be an effective remedy for scrofulous disorders and a variety of other ailments. A sickly woman, seated in a chair, being served Ayer's Sarsaparilla. Also shown in this outdoor scene are two children, a dog, and another woman.

“Thousands of Americans undergo disc removal or spinal fusion each year, despite limited evidence that either surgical procedure is more effective than non-operative therapy in providing long-term pain relief or improved function. And for patients with the typical wear-and-tear osteoarthritis of the knee, physical therapy proves as successful as the commonly performed arthroscopic surgery.”

Sounds like the type of thing that Dr. Bill Booker would say. Well, it’s a quote out of Forbes magazine, and it appears that Dr. Booker isn’t the only one interested in lifting the veil off Stupid Medicine.

Forbes explains that it has been a long, slow slog toward the culture of overtreatment and overprescription. But we’ve arrived. And this is why stupid medicine has become so prevalent, and why we need a gut check.

How Overtreatment Has Led to Stupid Medicine

People are busy. People dislike having to make schedule changes. People like fast solutions. People want to swallow a pill and be done with their pain. People are persuaded by big pharmaceutical campaigns and expensive university hospitals to believe they house all the answers.

Medical providers like to give people what they think they want. Medical providers are learned professionals. Medical providers make aggressive suggestions. Medical providers offer “definitive” answers. Medical providers benefit financially from an insurance system that pays out according to the action taken, not the solution found.

Providers want to be seen as problem solvers. Patients want their problems solved — quickly. There’s no crime in it. It’s human nature. And as Dr. Robert Pearl describes in the Forbes article, when all other instincts fail, we love to suspend disbelief.

“Psychological studies reveal that a powerful anecdote can be much more influential than data. Doctors and patients remember the one patient in a thousand for whom a routine examination found something unexpected. Meantime, they overlook the 999 for whom it made no difference and led to unnecessary tests and procedures.”

But while our reflex is to go for the “quick fix” over our intuition or discipline, in the long run, the quick fix is rarely the lasting answer.

There must be a better way, right?

Now, we’ve heard the doctors object to the description of some of their work as “stupid medicine,” and admittedly, not every illness will be cured through investment in personal wellness.

But listening to one’s body and providing it a healthy lifestyle can make the qualitative difference. Indeed, ample evidence shows that many problems dealt with through standard medical practice can otherwise be resolved by less invasive though equally assertive treatments — manipulation of the body’s joints, muscles, and natural chemistry; adjustments to diet and exercise; ongoing effort on the part of patients to follow the regimens they know work.

The staff at Capitol Rehab of Arlington can help with the first two alternatives. The doctors and physical therapists continuously educate themselves on new studies and therapies, and are committed to finding techniques that don’t merely address the symptoms, but achieve solutions to prevent problems from returning.

The last alternative depends on a patient’s commitment to his or her own long-term well-being and a willingness to commit to nonmedical paths to recovery. The side effect is less spending, less medicating, and fewer treatments. Seems like a great return on the investment.

And it can be done by committing to a few key behaviors:

— Eat well

— Hydrate a lot

— Take multivitamins

— Exercise regularly (and it doesn’t have to be high-intensity)

— Share the company of others

— Get enough sleep

— Breathe deeply

And include a combination of the following:

— Massage

— Chiropractic care

— Acupuncture

— Yoga


So before you run to the doctor because you think you have a chronic condition requiring surgery or drugs, take a deep breath, and consider the alternative. Making simple adjustments can save you time, money, worry, pain, and prevent stupid medicine.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.