torsdag 21 april 2011

Chinese medicine and Western medicine: differences. The 0-100 principle

The difference between Chinese medicine and the current Wester medicine is more fundamental than one might think. They are two different paradigms; two very different views on reality. And from their respective views on reality they perceive health and illness in very different ways, and then base their treatments on that decision.

I have mentioned it before in this blog, but I think it´s worth taking a deeper look at: the 0-100 principle of health and illness.

Picture that the health of an individual can move between 0 to 100. At 0-10, the person is just normally healthy: they are balanced within their life, have a reasonable harmony with their surroundings, and their physical health works fine for their work and chosen way of life. (Chinese medicine would treat, by the way, and is able to treat, all those areas). The higher up on the scale, the worse the situation has become and the deeper the illness will have gone into the mind and body of the person. The higher up on the scale, the deeper the illness will also have had time to go to put an imprint on that person´s personality and emotions.

The current Western medicine mainly focuses on the range of 70+. An illness is not actually seen as an illness until it is very clear and present in the person. Sometimes not even this stage is treated, and often has to wait until higher up towards 80-100 before something is done. Then there are a variety of treatments, mainly focused on pharmaceuticals or surgery. Some of the knowledge and treatments Western medicine can offer here are incredibly good. On the downside, there is also a high (and silenced) degree of mental and physical injury as well as fatalities due to wrong dosages inside the healthcare system and by patients themselves. (One argument that has been made for why acupuncture most likely will not survive with high quality and on a broad spectrum in the West, is that the pharmaceutical companies would not permit it. If you think this sounds paranoid, start reading up on the major pharmaceutical companies and their reach in the Western medical system.)

The old Chinese medicine focuses on the range of about 10-100. Since at least 200 BC they have stated that the most skilled doctors treat before it´s a disease – in this discussion, somewhere in the 10-20 range, before it even gets to 30. They see health and disease as a spectrum where the first small, small signs of a coming problem are visible in their diagnostic techniques. However, Chinese medicine has a weakness in the extreme range of 80-100. Here, Western medicine has some treatments that work with great efficiency, but there are also treatments at this end in Chinese medicine that seems impossible to Western medicine – such as one Western who recently saw an old man come in with a left-side stroke into a hospital, and two hours later be able to limp out, quite well, supported by his daughter. He had been diagnosed and treated immediatly, treated by acupuncture and the specific techniques for working with strokes that Chinese medicine has. This worked, as usual. But as a general rule, Chinese medicine has a weakness in this range compared to Western medicine.

In these two main paradigms of focus, a classically trained, fully skilled chinese physician would remark that if someone was your patient for a long time and actually ended up in the 70, you don´t know what you are doing, while a Western doctor usually, through his or her training, would not even look at the first 70 as anything much of interest at all – at best a preserve for physiotherapists.

The Chinese version is non-invasive, in the Western sense of the word. The primary treatment techniques are herbal medicine, acupuncture, tuina (when well trained, this is a high-tech version of massage that can also put organs back in the right place and open up very locked areas in a patient and restore blood-flow and energy-flow to them), and qigong. Acupuncture can treat a large range of problems and illnessess. It can treat chronic illnessess through increasing the physical and mental health of the patient, and decreasing the wear and tear from the chronic illness itself, even though it can´t remove it. Herbal medicine is usually seen as most efficient when it comes to reach greater depths in a person´s health, but it is very difficult to find skilled herbalists with good herbs in the West.

Classical Chinese medicine treat disturbances in health which they view as usually being something organic, something that coagulates: the longer it is left in place, the more it will go towards what Western medicine would call an illness or disease (external pathogens such as viruses are not seen this way, but your susceptibility to external factors can be changed and treated). Chinese medicine treats the range of 10-70 with a precision, skill and effeciency that Western medicine simply does not have techniques for right now. When you get up into the 70-100 span, Western medicine treats some things that an acupuncture doctor cannot do at all, and has great knowledge of crucial parts of physical health through Western science. When the Chinese version works well, and with good quality, it means two main things: 1) the person´s body, mind and life don´t become shaped by an illness; instead it is dealt with and balanced out so early that it never manifests and damages more. 2) It effectively treats general well-being and harmony in life too, including emotional imbalances, which means that good treatment will give the patient a greater ability to enjoy and savour their life.

From seeing patients and students over the last decade, and how they have fared in the two systems here in Sweden, I have to say that there has been a marked and strong bias for better health in those who used the Chinese medicine version in the hands of someone with long training and high skill. There have also been cases among them where Western medicine has been needed – and has treated the problem really well, since it fell within its specialized remit. But even then, the post-op healing from surgeries, for example, has been visibly increased by skilled Chinese medical treatment. I have also seen a range of treatments being done by Chinese medicine for things that Western medicine either couldn´t treat, or, worse, openly scoffed at – insulting and attacking the patient´s dignity for even daring to claim something was wrong, which is a horrible thing to do to a sick or injured person, especially from the position of power that doctors and nurses have in our society.

Any treatments within the range of unease and low-level mental lability or anxiety I have also seen better treated by Chinese than Western medicine during this time. Most cases have simply not registered as a problem within Western medicine at all – it is so far outside the locked box of the 70-100 that it is not seen as a problem, and there aren´t really any treatments for it. If the anxiety becomes bad enough, it might be treated with pharmaceuticals, but that´s often the end result today, when the system for Western medicine is kept being cut back ever year.

Discussing this becomes difficult without going into patient notes, but I offer the 0-100 model as something to think about and see in your own health. The programming we get in the West makes us only start seeing and reacting to problems once they are very, very visible: the current Western system indirectly tries to rob people of the knowledge of their bodies and innate minds, giving power to the hierarchy within Western medicine to decide what is right and what is wrong (if you choose to give it, of course. It´s yours to keep or give away. Or take back). There is a large and practical potential for treatments in the 10-70 range, long before you might end up with a more serious problem or illness. Does it cover everything? No. But if done by skilled professionals with long training, it does offer a vastly different, more vibrant version of health than the current Western system does.

In hospitals in China we can see what is probably a utopian model: the Two Wings, one with Western care, one with Chinese. The staff in each dedicated to their own unique skills and treatments, and patients free to go to either, or start in one place and then shift. The Western side has Western medicine doctors (xiyi yisheng), the Traditional side has Chinese medicine (zhongyi yisheng) doctors. Well ... sometimes I have a dream.