.. d physiological processes are closely linked. The connection between stress and immune system response, for example, is well documented (Epiro and Walsh). Some scientists suggest that the power of prayer and faith healing, like some forms of meditation, might also be physiological in that they may protect the body from the negative effects of stress hormone norepinephrine. In addition, experience shows that relaxation techniques can help patients enormously. ‘Medicine is a three-legged stool,’ says Dr.
Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School (Epiro and Walsh). ‘One leg is pharmaceuticals, the other is surgery, and the third is what people can do for themselves. Mind-body work is an essential part of that.’ In addition to preventing or curing illnesses, these therapies provide people the chance to be involved in their own care, to make vital decisions about their own health, to be touched emotionally, and to be changed psychologically in the process. Many patients today believe their doctor or medical system is too technical, impersonal, remote, and uncaring. The mind-body approach is potentially a corrective to this tendency, a reminder of the importance of human connection that opens up the power of patients acting on their own behalf. Homeopathy Homeopathy, despite the American Medical Association’s characterization of it as a pseudo science, is a popular alternative that is drawing increased attention. Founded in the eighteenth century by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, it is based on the idea that ‘like cures like’ (Kees); that micro-doses of substances, known in large amounts to cause illness, can treat that illness by stimulating the body’s own natural defenses and curative powers. In some respects, treatment with homeopathic medicines, nontoxic compounds derived from plants, animals and minerals, is akin to immunization or allergy treatments in which similar substances are introduced into the body to bolster immunity.
A substantial number of American doctors–among them Wayne Jonas, a family practitioner who is director of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine–have been trained in homeopathy, as have countless nurses, veterinarians, chiropractors. While critics contend that homeopathic remedies are no better than water at worst and placebos at best, a survey of studies published in the British Medical Journal a few years ago indicates that some are actually more effective than placebos, and a number of reports document their efficacy in treating hay fever, respiratory infections, digestive diseases, migraine and a form of rheumatic disease. ‘I do what works best for my patients,’ says Dr. Jennifer Jacobs of Edmonds, Washington, a family practitioner and member of the NIH Alternative Medicine Advisory Committee (Squires). ‘There are certainly situations where modern medicine is appropriate and lifesaving, but perhaps the pendulum has swung too far toward technology and standard pharmaceuticals and not enough toward some of the early healing methods that have a track record in many cultures.’ Chiropractic Treatment Chiropractic science is concerned with investigating the relationship between the human body’s structure (primarily of the spine) and function (primarily of the nervous system) to restore and preserve health. Chiropractic medicine applies such knowledge to diagnosing and treating structural dysfunctions that can affect the nervous system.
Chiropractic physicians use manual procedures and interventions, not surgical or chemotherapeutic ones. In 1993, more than 45,000 licensed chiropractors were practicing in the United States (Krizmanic). Chiropractic specialty areas are pertinent to other medical specialties, such as radiology, orthopedics, neurology, and sports medicine. Current chiropractic research focuses on back and musculoskeletal pain and reliability studies. Although chiropractic clearly has its drawbacks, notably its stubborn insistence that spinal misalignments cause or underlie most ailments, including those far afield from the backbone, its use of vertebral manipulation has proved useful in treating acute low-back pain and other muscular and neurological problems. Osteopaths, licensed physicians whose education is essentially the same as that of M.D.s, also include manipulative therapy in their treatments. Studies at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine Touch Research Institute have found that premature infants gain weight much faster after being massaged than babies in an unmassaged control group (Cooper and Stoflet).
Massaged infants cry less and are calmer than those who are only rocked. It is surprising that only now, in the late 1990’s, are we discovering the fact that not only infants but also children and adults respond favorably to the human touch–both emotionally and physically. Conclusion Many Americans flock to alternative practices either because their suffering has not been alleviated by standard medical or surgical treatment, or because the traditional treatments themselves are too expensive or dangerous. These patients often feel that the intrusion of increasingly complicated and impersonal technology has widened the gap between mainstream caregivers and patients. Too many doctors are thought to be coolly professional and emotionally distant, inclined to cure a specific disorder narrow-mindedly without comforting or caring for the patient.
Americans have made it clear with their pocketbooks that they find this unacceptable. Thomas Roselle, a licensed chiropractor and acupuncturist who runs an alternative-care practice in Falls Church, Va., states, ‘Traditional medicine shines in crisis intervention, but where it fails at times is in day-to-day-care. We see a lot of different things where traditional medicine has failed to do anything about it. Too often the question of why the body is broken down isn’t asked’ (Lombardo). Of course, acceptance of alternative medicine by the medical establishment will not occur until research has proven its efficacy. However, with so many Americans already using alternative treatments, doctors need to better understand the principles of alternative medicine.
It is incumbent upon doctors not only to know what medical treatments their patients are using, but what effect those treatments are having. Only then can doctors provide effective and safe health care. Works Cited Apostolides, Marianne. ‘How to Quit the Holistic Way.’ Psychology Today Sept./Oct. 1996: 34-46.
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