torsdag 21 april 2011

Thinking about the course

Thinking about the course, in this lacunae between classes. Some good stuff, some bad. Hope the three to four years are worth it.
Heard that some of the teachers don´t like me. It´s always a drag when people can´t stand to have someone around who knows a lot about a subject. Oh well. I´ll have to try to look less bored in some of the classes and see if that helps. The course isn´t made for me, and that´s fine. It´s made for student with no previous experience, not for someone with 20 years of previous experience.

It´s interesting to think more about what good Chinese medicine can do. It inhabits a space that is distinct and unique to what Western medicine has. Western medicine´s ability to deal with some things at the 70+ part of the spectrum well is a great gift, a great knowledge, but it stands quite helpless before a lot of chronic illnessess or simply making people feel better and more harmonius in their life. I have seen Western medical practitioners sneer at the thought of ”just” making people feel better and healthier and more harmonius in their life. ”It´s not an illness to be treated,” seems to be their view, while the person who says this is often visibly tense, both physically, mentally and emotionally, and often visibly overstressed and tired. This of course indicates someone who might still have a lot of thinking to do about what health actually is, and what it means to a patient (and themselves). Good chinese medicine can quite easily balance someone´s life a bit and make them healthier, happier, have more energy, and milden problems that might blossom into Western medical problems given another five, ten or twenty years of inaction and accumulation.

It would be fascinating to have the Utopia of the Two Wings: one with skilled Chinese medical practitioners, the other with skilled Western medical practitioners, and see the way they can complement each other to lessen the pain and problems for the patients (remember, this usually also means that the Western medical staff gets better health, as they get treated with Chinese medicine).

Comparing the systems as such doesn´t work. It has been tried, and usually fails dismally as the researchers don´t know enough about Chinese medicine to ask the right questions.
If we take the idea of comparing treatments for the ”same” problem, we end up with problems ourselves before the sentence is even done. To begin with, the reductionism that has shaped the past 200 years of Western science, is something that Chinese science would see as naively limited. There are usually many answers to the same question, all weaving together – there has to be: the universes are too complex for just a single answer.

If someone tried to do a study of treatments done to patients suffering from – well, anything, really. Let´s say high blood pressure. Chinese medicine would simply not see it as one thing. If we have a group of forty patients all diagnosed in Western medicine with ”high blood pressure”, the Chinese practitioner might diagnose each of the forty under one of at least five or six different diagnosises, and to be honest, each of those would be individualized too, because Chinese medicine diagnoses the individual system and health of the patient and does so again each time they come back, on the spot, before treating them and following the changes that has happened since last time.

And treatment? Well, the forty patients would most likely get the same blood pressure medication from the Western practitioner. It might vary in dosage, the occasional one might need another brand, but they would all be put on blood pressure medication. They might be advised to take more walks, eat better, work less. Some would follow this advice, some would not. And for a large number of them, the medication would be permanent, because that´s ”all that can be done”. Over longer periods of time, most of them would no doubt get more medication of other kinds when the system starts to be affected by the drugs.

The treatment on the chinese side would be acupuncture, and in some cases, where possible, herbs. Each of the patients would get treatment unique to them, and it would changed uniquely to them each new meeting – usually six treatments. This would then be followed up within a few months, and treatment might be resumed. Most of the patients would get reduced blood pressure quite fast in the treatment. To make it more permanent, regular treatments each year might be needed. A skilled practitioner would, at the same time, treat their system for other minor problems that impinges on their health, mental health, and well-being.

So...most ”research” has been done with the forty patients, and the rule was for the Chinese side to treat them with the same points, which is like the Western treatment being relegated to patients only being allowed in the clinic to watch nurses and doctors, while no-one talks to them or gives them medication, and then they go home, having been ”treated”.
Studies to ”explain” Chinese medicine in Western terms can´t be done: the systems can´t be compared like that. What would be interesting is to have the forty patients on one side, same on the other, then see which group had the better health and effect on their blood pressure after one year of treatment. It would be a bit unfair – the Western group would only be allowed to take pharmaceuticals, but it might be an interesting start to show what each system can bring to the table of its own skill and excellence.

And Western medicine would have its strength in other facets than this. Such as x-rays, some surgical procedures, and in some of its technology which is incredible, but sadly also often programs practitioners to think of humans as machines, which they are not and never have been.
Each side has its own strengths, its own weaknesses, its own flaws. In some cases, surgery really is the only option, but good Chinese medicine can make a lot of unnecessary surgeries go away, and leave more time for those that are important. Chinese medicine have never focused on Psychiatry. Their treatments, including herbs, acupuncture and qigong, would make most of those problems go away, but, again, not up at the end of 80-100 on the scale. Here there are illnessess that really need psychiatric care and skills, something the monasteries in China often dealt with in history.

The Utopia of the Two Wings. It would be nice to see in the West. But dreams are dreams, and all we can do is stand on our own patch of ground and make sure that is watered, taken care of, and blossoms with deep-rooted trees and beautiful flowers. If we are lucky, some seeds from that patch will spread.