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Blinkered by knowledge

24 March 2021

Knowledge is a powerful thing.

Having a wealth of knowledge is a good thing. Those who know more often have greater insight into the world and that knowledge is a powerful ally when faced with problems that need to be solved.

However, knowledge can also be a negative factor when it comes to problem-solving.

How can that be? How can knowledge be both a powerful tool and a hinderance at the same time?

Well you may have heard people who have apparently achieved the impossible utter the words "I did it because I didn't know it was impossible".

I think I experienced a bit of that last week.

During my visit to the neurologist to check out the status of my Parkinson's disease (PD) I queried the highly qualified and very knowedgable doctor about some of the various alternative ways of handling symptoms.

I mentioned that some people had suggested marijuana as a great way of reducing the effect of many symptoms.

I wasn't expecting the response I received.

The doctor came out with a very emphatic "no no no no!"

This would seem to fly in the face of what a number of a number of PD sufferes had reported to me as a pretty damned good way to ease tremors, cramps (dystonia) and other symptoms.

It seems that the neurological profession, or at least this particular member of that profession, did not think that the effects of a little dope were effective at all.

I also went on to describe some of the strategies and methods I'd come up with to successfully manage or mitigate my symptoms.

I was surprised that there was very little interest (if any) in hearing about the things I'd found to be effective.

My use of creatine monohydrate (based on a study I found online) was dismissed out of hand and several other strategies I'd come up with over the past few years were also discounted.

I made it very clear that I felt there could well be some degree of placebo effect involved in the results I'm getting and that although I was very meticulous in documenting what I was doing, we weren't talking about double-blind controlled studies.

"Nah... don't care, doesn't matter... let's stick to the textbook treatments" seems to have been the attitude.

Apparently, knowing a lot about a particular subject can result in a reluctance to think outside the fairly rigid framework that such knowledge tends to create.

I'm the first to admit that I may just be lucky and that the progression of my PD may be completely unaffected by what I'm doing... but surely it would be worth just collecting the datapoints and considering the options?

Maybe it's because our health-system is under-resourced and doctors are under pressure to get bodies in and out of their offices ASAP that pushes them to be so blinkered to anything that isn't an accepted form of treatment. That's kind of sad, because I'm sure there are many cases where individuals have, perhaps even inadvertently, discovered something that works and could be of wider application.

Or perhaps it's just that I'm confusing the role of a reasearcher with a clinician. Maybe doctors are just there to diagnose and treat based only on established principles and wisdoms, regardless of the apparent efficacy of non-mainstream options.

I can see why doctors would sigh and roll their eyes when people roll up claiming that some expensive extract from an exotic tropical fruit being marketed as a cure-all supplement has helped their condition -- but what I have tried is based on a lot of reasearch and published medical papers. It's not snake oil, it's independently peer reviewed science that I've tried and adapted.

Interestingly enough, one of the things I first tried when diagnosed with PD was exercise. My GP had said that exercise wouldn't make a lot of difference and seemed to be the prevailing wisdom at the time. Whilst exercise is always good, there appeared to be no extra benefit for those with PD.

However, since I began a quite carefully managed program of resistance and aerobic exercise, my symptoms have been much more manageable and now I find that the medical profession considers that exercise may be the single best thing that anyone can do to slow the progression of PD and manage the symptoms in a non-chemical manner.

So, is it just that most people are stupid and vulnerable to snake-oil merchants or fads on the internet that causes doctors to ignore any non-textbook strategies they're using to manage their illnesses? Does this mean that when someone like myself who still has an IQ higher than room temperature and who thorougly researches the subject before trying stuff out is also dismissed as being part of that "noise"?

If so, that kind of sucks and proves my point that sometimes, a little (too much) knowledge is a dangerous thing. Being told (by lecturers and textbooks) that there is only one way to crack a nut means you may never consider that there are alternatives.

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