Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Why I Will Never Sell You Supplements

It all started when I had terrible TMJD...

I discovered myofascial trigger point therapy in the late 1980s in the same way many of us do: by stumbling upon an MTPT by happy accident when looking for pain treatment. I had terrible TMJD, and I lucked into a dentist who made me a splint and referred me to the first myofascial trigger point therapist I ever met.

As it happened, she also represented a not-available-in-stores brand of liquid potassium supplement, and right in the initial office consultation persuaded me to purchase this product from her. I obediently bought some and used it for a few weeks. It seemed to live up to its energy-boosting claims, but it was too expensive for me as I was a public school teachers' aide at the time, and I soon gave it up in favor of buying groceries. I noticed I didn't seem significantly worse off without it.

My therapist recommended a supplement now banned by the FDA

A few months later I was back in the office of the same MTPT for a tune-up - supplement salesperson or not, she was a fantastic therapist! - and now she was promoting a very expensive powdered ephedra tea mix for weight loss. I gave that one a miss because I dislike stimulants, and thank goodness I did! It later turned out to be one of those herbal supplements linked to adverse health effects - including death! - that was ultimately banned by the FDA.

In the subsequent years, I have met many myofascial trigger point therapists as well as other doctors and therapists who promote and sell various supplements and products. Some of these products have a degree of merit, most of them are more expensive than similar products found in retail stores. Something about this always bothered me.

I felt like a cash cow, not a patient.

One day a health consultant I was trying on the strong recommendation of a friend - at $100/hour plus $50/monthly supply of a supplement she'd convinced me I needed - tried to sell me two additional products plus the one I already used, plus the session, and I found myself being asked for a check for over $300. Over $300. in a single afternoon for products and services I'd never heard of before with no visible or immediate results, that might help me over time... maybe... and... snap! I suddenly didn't trust her anymore. I still liked her personally, and thought she gave at least the impression that she knew an awful lot.  But I also thought I smelled a sales pitch and my gut told me to back away. Suddenly I felt like a cash cow, not a patient. I never went back.

I decided that for me, promoting a product to my patients undermines my integrity because it presents a conflict of interest. 

I certainly want my patients to be informed if they may have a particular vitamin deficiency related their back pain or migraines, but if I am personally selling those supplements, I appear to be profiting, not to mention using up valuable treatment time to do so. I would also be representing myself as having training that I do not. If my patients are anything like me, they may be politely smiling, and even buying the product, but inwardly they may be feeling put upon, hustled, uncomfortable, resentful, and possibly even in doubt of my motives or ethics.

I will never suggest a supplement that can not be purchased in a brick-and-mortar store.

I like to make a point of telling my patients that I am not a physician, nor am I a nutritionist, and I can neither prescribe nor diagnose. I can tell them what the studies say about the relationship between muscle pain and nutrition, and make some recommendations about which supplements they might want to discuss with their physician or a licensed nutritionist. I will also never suggest a product that can not be purchased in an ordinary grocery or health food store or pharmacy. It is my belief that a good, known, tested product at a fair price will be available at a retail store, and should not come with a hard sell on why you must buy this product even though it is much more expensive than its competitors, or why this product has no competitors and therefore must be purchased only through this seller.

I am aware and respectful of the fact that some people see their health care professionals in an authoritative light. I know that I certainly like to think that my doctors and therapists always know what they are talking about! This can make it easy to persuade people that they Really Need Something if a doctor or therapist says so. No one should ever take advantage of that to make a profit. In my experience, a supplement side-line subtracts integrity from my practice, which means it can never add value, no matter what the profit.

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