What comes to mind when you think of healthcare? For most, images of hospitals, pharmacies, medications and surgery appear. Health insurance, flu shots, antibiotics and over-the-counter medicines quickly enter the picture too. Let’s not forget pain and suffering too! These are just some of the aspects of Modern medicine, also called Allopathic medicine or Western medicine. Although it’s the most dominant and well known, it’s actually just one of many forms.
Other forms, known as Alternative medicine, include: Acupuncture, Aromatherapy, Ayurveda, Biofeedback, Chiropractic, Herbal medicine, Homeopathy, Hypnotherapy, Massage, Mind-body medicine, Naturopathy, Nutrition, Osteopathy, Relaxation techniques, Spirituality, Tai chi, Therapeutic touch, Traditional Chinese medicine and Yoga.
Tools In a Toolbox
For a moment, let’s think of these forms of medicine as tools in a toolbox. When repairing or cleaning things (car, house, computer, or anything for that matter) you’ll need different tools to get the job done. Using only 1 form of medicine for all your health needs is like using only 1 type of tool to fix everything in your life. At times a hammer could be just the right tool for the job, but many times a hammer is too blunt of a tool. It’s clear why different situations call for a variety of tools and methods.
Like using different methods and having a diverse toolbox, understanding and using various forms of medicine is essential for healing and well being. The point here is that 1 form can’t solve all our needs completely. Each has its own strong points and limitations.
“Ask Your Doctor”….. But Which One?
Until the early 1900’s there was a level playing field with several forms of medicine competing against each other. Medical Doctors (or M.D.s) as well as Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Naturopaths, Homeopaths and Herbalists were all widely available in the US. Each has a different approach and theory:
- Allopathic medicine is a science-based system, backed by scientific evidence. It relies on drugs and surgeries (physical interventions) to treat patients.
- Chiropractic medicine relies on manipulating the spine and joints to treat illness. Doctors of Chiropractic (D.C.s) use other various treatments as well. A chiropractic degree requires about the same number of classroom hours as a medical degree.
- Osteopathic medicine believes that most diseases are related to the musculoskeletal system and that structure and function of the body are related. Doctors of osteopathy (D.O.s) get the same basic training as medical doctors (M.D.s), but also learn hands on adjustments of muscles, bones, and ligaments and use this along with conventional medical treatments.
- Naturopathic medicine is a holistic system based on the healing power of nature. Naturopathic doctors (N.D.s) look to find the cause of disease by understanding the body, mind, and spirit. Most use a variety of therapies and techniques (such as nutrition, behavior change, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and acupuncture).
- Homeopathic medicine stimulates the body’s own healing mechanisms. Homeopaths believe that physical disease has a mental and emotional component and treat the person rather than the illness. The homeopath interviews the patient, asking many questions and observing personality traits. Remedies are made with substances such as herbs, minerals, or animal products.
- Herbal medicine (or Botanical) uses a plant’s seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers for medicinal purposes. Herbalism has a long tradition around the world and many of today’s conventional drugs are made from botanicals.
So only about 100 years ago it was easier to find a wide range of medical treatments. Today they’re often not taken seriously and ridiculed (especially by M.D.s)! Western medicine seems like it offers a wide variety of choices, but they all fall within the same category.
Why Is Western Medicine So Dominant?
The results and costs don’t actually support it’s popularity. But without a second thought, most people automatically “follow the doctor’s orders!” It’s the only form that is covered by all insurance plans, it’s the most widely taught in medical schools and also the only form that they make TV shows and movies about! Chiropractic, Acupuncture and Yoga are gaining ground, but Western medicine has deep roots in most of the world.
Deep ties between the pharmaceutical industry, medical schools, government and media go back to the early 1900’s. It’s no coincidence that this was the time when Western Medicine gained it’s stronghold over other forms. Since then it has shaped the world’s narrow-minded perception of healthcare.
Regardless of which form is used, the suitability and safety of each needs to be the first priority. The best healthcare is the combination of methods and treatments that deliver the safest and most effective care!