Faith Factor | What kind of treatment would you recommend?

Eric Nelson
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; Even when I was a kid I wondered about that one out of every five dentists who didnand#8217;t and#8220;recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum.and#8221;

I know. Iand#8217;m dating myself. But if youand#8217;re between the ages of, say, 45 and 105, you know what Iand#8217;m talking about.

Although I doubt very much this one guy would recommend gum with sugar, he still struck me as the odd man out.

These days folks recommend all kinds of things and#8212; what movies to watch, which restaurant is good, the best dog walker and#8212; even what you should do about that nagging backache. And, chances are, the reason theyand#8217;re making that recommendation is because they can personally vouch for the quality of that product, service, or treatment.

Which reminds me and#8230;

Not too long ago I had a whopper of a backache that left me unable to get around comfortably from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. Although Iand#8217;m well aware of the various treatments available and#8212; everything from painkillers to surgery to a visit to the local chiropractor and#8212; I ended up going with something Iand#8217;d used many times before. Prayer.

This where the and#8220;four out of five dentistsand#8221; analogy comes in and#8230;

Ask yourself: When was the last time you recommended prayer as a means of treating a physical ailment?

Donand#8217;t feel bad. I use it all the time and#8212; and with good success and#8212; and yet Iand#8217;m often reluctant to recommend it to others, maybe because of some unnatural fear of being seen as the and#8220;fifth dentist.and#8221;

Despite this reluctance, this doesnand#8217;t mean weand#8217;re not relying on prayer ourselves. According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, nearly one half of all Americans turn to prayer as a means of addressing their various health problems. And of those surveyed, more than twice as many reported and#8220;betterand#8221; as opposed to and#8220;worseand#8221; health as a result of these prayers.

Which begs the question: What exactly is prayer?

For those who conduct medical research, this is a bit of a sticky wicket since prayer is such an individual thing. How does one go about measuring the effectiveness of something they canand#8217;t even define? And just because someone says they got better, does this mean prayer had anything to do with it?

Just ask Mayo Clinic hematologist, Morrie Gertz, who said, and#8220;Itand#8217;s not my job to tell (my patients) they shouldnand#8217;t feel better and#8230; We may not have great evidence that alternative medicine works, but thatand#8217;s very different from saying it doesnand#8217;t work.and#8221;

By the way, shortly after I decided to pray about the situation with my back, I began to feel a lot better. That was at least two or three years ago and I havenand#8217;t had that problem since. Maybe now when someone asks me what I would suggest to relieve an aching back, I just might recommend prayer. Chances are, at least one out of two of those reading this article might do the same.

and#8212; Eric Nelson is the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. For more information visit This article originally appeared on Blogcritics.

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