A few days ago I read Chronic Tension Headaches: a detailed self-help guide (I highly recommend his site for anyone struggling with chronic pain). In it, the author mentions that one cause of chronic headaches is wearing glasses that don’t fit your prescription.
Since I haven’t had an eye exam in five years, this instantly shot up my list of possible causes of chronic headache. And let me tell you, if I have had daily painful headaches for over a year because I’ve been wearing glasses that don’t fit, I will be overjoyed and will also feel like a complete moron.
I will also be extremely irritated at all my doctors, who saw I was wearing glasses and did not any point go “hey, did you have a recent eye exam? Out-of-date glasses prescriptions can cause daily chronic headache.”
This is not the first such stupid cause of chronic illness I’ve learned about. For example:
- If you have anxiety, and you drink a lot of coffee, the coffee might be causing your anxiety. It’s a stimulant and stimulants cause anxiety.
- If you are depressed and you live in a place that doesn’t get a lot of light part of the year, try sitting in front of a light box.
- If you are depressed and no antidepressant is working, ask politely if you’ve been screened for hypothyroidism, anemia, and vitamin deficiencies, all of which are known to cause depression.
- If you’re depressed and you can’t see a doctor, and you are pale, weak, and tired, and experience the compulsion to eat ice or dirt or something else that isn’t food (pica), take an iron supplement and see if it helps.
- Similarly, try taking a multivitamin and see if it helps.
So I thought this open thread might be a good idea. What are some stupid treatments for chronic illness? When I say “stupid treatments”, I mean:
- It is little-known and medical professionals might not tell you about it (so not medication, therapy for mental illness, etc).
- It is relatively easily testable (so not “try this extremely complicated routine for six months and if it doesn’t work it’s your fault for not adhering to it”).
- It is a treatment, not a thing you should have done three years ago to prevent your chronic illness.
- When you hear about it, it makes you slap yourself on the head and go “duh.”
Since this topic is particularly likely to attract pseudoscience, I would like to lay out the following commenting guidelines:
- All suggested treatments must fit the definition of “stupid treatment” above.
- Your suggested treatment can treat at most three things. I will delete all comments about how a particular supplement, diet, or Traditional Chinese Medicine practice can cure everything from low back pain to diabetes to hair loss to insufficiently attractive feet.
- When talking about diets, all links should be to peer-reviewed scientific studies and not to websites of people advocating for the diet. If weight loss is recommended, you must provide a specific reason to believe that losing weight specifically will help, which is not “everyone knows that being fat is bad for you.”
- Known pseudoscience and quackery will be deleted at my discretion, unless the commenter both (a) acknowledges that this is pseudoscience and (b) either:
- Provides a plausible biological mechanism based on what we know of how the human body works
- Links to a systemic review or meta-analysis from a reasonably reputable journal (not The Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies or The Journal of Poetry Therapy) that suggests the treatment will work.