"Crazy" Cures For Some Common Ailments

Playing a certain Australian instrument to treat sleep apnea? Music as a remedy for back pain? Text messaging to help kick the habit?

Those are just a few of what Men'sHealth magazine is dubbing the "crazy cures" for some common maladies -- cures it reports on in its current issue

In the piece, titled "6 Crazy Cures -- Strange, yet totally effective solutions to your most common ailments," Men'sHealth looks at remedies that probably wouldn't be top-of-mind for most doctors.

On The Early Show Thursday, medical contributor Dr. Holly Phillips mulled over a couple of them.


Treat Sleep Apnea with a Didgeridoo:

"A didgeri-what?" you ask. While aborigines in Australia have been playing this long wooden trumpet for centuries, it's just recently been redefined as a modern-day medical device. Researchers reporting in the British Medical Journal evaluated 25 people with sleep apnea--a breath-stealing condition caused by flabby throat muscles--and found that those who took 4 months of didgeridoo (DIH-jeh-ree-doo) lessons had about 31/2 times less daytime sleepiness than the folks who didn't blow their own horns. The newly minted musicians also snored significantly less. Credit this uncommon cure to vibrations that exercise tissue in the mouth and throat, says researcher Milo Puhan, Ph.D. "When these muscles are strengthened, the tongue has less tendency to obstruct the airway."

Make it work for you:

If huffing on a wooden tube to treat your sleep apnea sounds a tad too weird, then you probably aren't familiar with the alternatives. The most commonly prescribed option is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which involves spending every night hooked up to a machine that pumps air down your throat to keep it from collapsing. The other approach is surgery, and that's only 30 to 60 percent effective. Now are you ready to toot the didgeridoo? You can pick up a beginner-friendly model for about $80 at L.A. Outback (laoutback.com). And don't worry; it's intuitive to learn, says co-owner Barry Martin. You purse your lips and blow into it with the beat.

Dr. Holly Phillips' take:

Building the muscles of the oropharynx (throat) can help people with sleep apnea. Unfortunately, this cure was only tested on 25 people, so is still theoretical at this point. However, it makes good sense and is likely to do no harm. A person should not use this instrument INSTEAD of getting a proper medical evaluation and treatment, but in conjunction with other treatments. Under those circumstances, why not?

Another effective treatment for many with sleep apnea is weight loss.

Men's Health:

Use Text Messages to Quit Smoking:

Any time you want a Marlboro, reach for your Motorola instead. Researchers at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, compared how well two groups of smokers were doing in their attempts to quit. They discovered that those who received daily text messages containing tips on beating cravings plus motivational words from other quitters were twice as likely to kick ash as the people who went textless. What's more, rates of quitting for the cell-supported group remained high after 6 months. "People tend to carry their phones with them at all times, so it's a readily accessible means of providing cessation assistance," says study author Robyn Whittaker, M.D. "It's also relatively anonymous and confidential."

Make it work for you:

When you're finally ready to stub your cigs, set a quit date and then go to backpackit.com, where you can write text messages to yourself and have them sent on preset days and times. Or, to prevent you from predicting every missive, you can use random delivery options, such as "later today" and "tomorrow morning." Either way, include words of encouragement and reminders about why you're quitting (such as a later exit from Earth). Next, go to your phone's message options and create a group list of your closest friends and family. Send a text message to all of them, asking that they shoot you encouragement on your quitting day and the days that follow. Save the messages you like and pull one up every time a craving strikes.

Dr. Holly Phillips' take:

Constant positive reinforcement has been shown to help with breaking addictions of any kind. One very standard aspect of addiction treatment is to assign a sponsor to the patient; in other words -- someone who can keep urging the patient to remain free of the cigarettes, drugs, etc. The texting device can serve as a virtual sponsor, providing those positive messages without the sponsor him/herself actually being there. Also, one part of the addictive quality of cigarettes is the tactile one (touch). So, if you get the urge to have a cigarette in your hand, you may calm it somewhat by reaching for a cell phone instead.