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'Buying a hope': Why people try dubious pills for pain relief and weight loss


In many cases, pain in the body is a manifestation of an underlying structural or inflammatory condition, said Dr Cho.

“Chronic pain that is unaddressed can compromise quality of life and lead to psycho-emotional issues,” he said.

In chronic pain, a comprehensive approach is needed and this is best assessed and managed by a pain specialist.

Even in acute pain such as from an ankle sprain, pain relief is important so that the pain will not get in the way of rehabilitation, otherwise it could lead to muscle shrinkage and weakness, he added.

He noted that many patients avoid taking short term pain-relieving medications for fear of side effects without realising that these side effects are generally uncommon, and that it is also detrimental to "just bear with the pain".

Dr Cho said that in deciding how best to treat a patient, he assesses the cause of the pain, typically mechanical factors, inflammation, nerve injury or a mix.

Depending on the type of pain, specific therapies and medications can be prescribed.

He noted that alternative and complementary therapy, including traditional Chinese medicine, ayurvedic therapy, and jamu are also on the rise.

While some patients may ask if it is safe to continue using these alongside Western medications, often, they purchase the products but take them without informing their doctors, he said.

“It is not uncommon to deal with adverse effects with some of these medications, especially if they are not issued by a licensed practitioner,” he said.

When it comes to weight loss, official guidelines from the United States recommend a gradual weight loss of 1 to 2 per cent of total body weight per week, said Dr Bernard Tan, medical director at S Aesthetics Clinic.

In general, most people should aim to lose about half to 2kg per week, depending on factors including current weight, diet, age, level of exercise and metabolism, Dr Tan added.

Healthy weight loss will come when an individual maintains a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 kcal per day over a sustained period, he said, noting that this is achieved through a balanced diet and regular exercise.

However, some may try to rush the process for occasions like weddings or have unrealistic expectations of the time and effort required.

“The desire to see immediate results is part of human nature. It is important to remember that patience is a key element of success and a healthy body is the goal of weight loss,” he said.

Purchasing herbal supplements from dubious sources with the intention of rapid weight loss can be dangerous, he cautioned.

“It is essential to consult a medical professional before embarking on a weight loss programme,” he said.

He added that the safety and effectiveness of herbal weight loss supplements have not been studied in detailed clinical trials, so the purported results are unverifiable.

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