Salt lamps: may not help, but won’t hurt either

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DEAR DR. ROACH: Himalayan salt lamps have become a mini-rage in my family. We now have one “burning” 24 hours per day in our bedroom and soon will have another for our living room. The same is true with other family members. It consists of a nightlight encased inside a rock of Himalayan salt — ours is orange. According to the Internet, the lamps do something to the ions in the atmosphere that contribute to our medical well-being and may solve a few medical problems. A person can even visit a salt store and sit in a “salt cave” for a specified time and receive even more ions (sitting in the salt cave involves a fee, by the way). I think the advertised benefits are rather dubious, and the adage “a sucker is born every minute” keeps resounding in my head. Do you have any thoughts on this? — G.S.

ANSWER: I looked at some of the lamps, and I think they are quite beautiful. However, I couldn’t find any evidence that suggests there are health benefits from them, and physics tells us that the temperature they operate at prevents the release of significant amounts of negative ions. There are effective negative-ion generators that can be purchased, and there is evidence that they are of benefit in seasonal affective disorder and in reducing airborne allergens, but salt lamps have neither empiric proof nor plausible reason for effectiveness, so I wouldn’t get one for health benefits. Of course, if you really believe that it will work, you may certainly find that it does help. This is a placebo response, and if your family is benefitting from it, maybe you shouldn’t try to talk them out of it. The salt-rock lamps certainly won’t hurt, which is more than I can say for many medicines.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I am a 72-year-old woman on treatment for moderately high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I am in good health and very active. I have not had an EKG in 40 years. What are the criteria for doing an EKG? — Anon.

ANSWER: With a few exceptions, EKGs are recommended only to evaluate symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms, an EKG generally is recommended against. A resting EKG is abnormal between 30 percent and 50 percent of the time in people with no heart blockages, and is normal 30 percent of the time in people with known blockages. Most coronary events occur in people with a normal resting EKG.

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One exception is for preoperative risk assessment.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I’m writing concerning tendonitis that the three ladies, D.H.B. wrote about. It’s been found by some physicians that tendonitis symptoms can be eased quite a bit by P-5-P, a form of vitamin B-6. I had to prove it for myself. I took 50 mg twice daily for a long time and then quit. The tendonitis returned with a vengeance. I resumed, and the pain lessened. It really does help. It’s a bit expensive for a good-quality brand, but that is what works for me and it is well worth it. — M.J.B.

ANSWER: I really wish that the physicians who found the effectiveness of this treatment for tendon complaints would publish their findings. I was unable to find any mention of treatment with any form of vitamin B-6 for tendonopathy (“tendonitis”). The National Institutes of Health has stated there is insufficient evidence to make a recommendation about B-6 for arthritis and related conditions. However, since moderate doses such as 50 mg are very safe, I would have no objection to trying it, especially when used with the physical-therapy treatment I recommended to D.H.B. and the other two ladies.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Health newsletters may be ordered from www.rbmamall.com.

(c) 2014 North America Syndicate Inc.

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