Western and Eastern medicine view treatment of the human body from drastically different perspectives. Western medicine subdivides the human body into smaller parts in order to treat the existing illness and its symptoms, dividing health and disease as two different concepts. Eastern medicine sees the human body in totality keeping itself in energetic balance with itself and the surrounding environment. These wide differences in medical approaches between the two involve methods of teaching, learning and treatment. The over 5,000-year-old concepts of Eastern mind-body-spirit philosophy made finding common ground between the two near impossible for hundreds of years.
East Versus West
The drastic differences have caused a lack of confidence and major non-acceptance in Eastern medicine techniques by more modern Western medical thought. Western medicine has looked askance at Alternative Healing methodologies for hundreds of years and stem from the negative suspicions, lack of knowledge, and little quantifiable evaluation of alternative healing positive results connected to these techniques. Following hypothetical deduction and the scientific method brought about development of Western medicine. Physicians are trained to treat disease. Eastern medicine uses an inductive method where results imply a considerable success.
Eastern medicine looks at a person’s state of balance: if external insults are greater than the body’s defense system, then one is ill.
Eastern physicians are trained in strengthening the internal defense systems of an ill patient.
This being said, the shift from total rejection to a slow acceptance of the Alternative Healing that Eastern medicine brings, has indeed been taking place at an ever increasing pace for approximately the past 40 years. This increase pace has been contributed greatly, as unfortunate as it is, due to the increased rate of Cancer and other chronic diseases.
The last two decades alone has increased medical knowledge more than all information accumulated since the first written description of cancerous tumors 3000 years ago and Egypt. By opening the door to the many avenues of research and treatment to combat Cancer the door was simultaneously opened up to methods of Alternative Healing. The chronic pain and disturbing side effects experienced by Cancer patients led to the search for alternative solutions by both patients and physicians alike. Alternative Healing methods and techniques are now proving themselves into acceptance within the Western medicine community.
Alternative Healing With Roots in Eastern Philosophy and Medicine
Due to the chronic pain and side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, Cancer patients search for and use more methods of Alternative Healing. The following are some examples of these Alternative Healing practices which Cancer patients use in order to control pain and nausea, side effects caused by prescription medications and treatments, reduce their levels of stress and promote overall relaxation. Cancer patients having a say in aspects of their own care promotes further contribution and control, increasing their empowerment. Through Alternative Healing Cancer patients once again are able to see themselves as a whole person. (Note: the list of benefits under each Alternative Healing example is only a partial list of the overall benefits that are of most concern to people with Cancer.)
Cautionary note: Cancer patients should check with their naturopath or doctor when planning to use Alternative Healing options in order to advise practitioners if any areas need to be excluded in their treatments due to tumor location, radiated areas, etc.
Acupressure involves applying pressure to certain points on the body which releases endorphins and anti-inflammatory chemicals into the body. These pressure points also contribute to increasing blood and lymph circulation and removing waste from the surrounding muscles in order to relieve tension in the area. The control of pain levels increased joint flexibility, and overall physical relaxation is greatly impacted through acupressure.
Acupuncture involves inserting very fine sterile needles into energy channels just under the skin. These needle placements unlock and moves qi (vital life force) that reduces emotional and physical symptoms. Not unlike, acupressure, acupuncture also promotes release of endorphins and anti-inflammatory chemicals; flow of lymph and blood; pain levels; life energy; and relaxation.
Aromatherapy makes use of aromatic essential oils to use in a base (or carrier) oil to massage into the skin. These essential oils can also be delivered into the surrounding air by use of a diffuser. Different oils and/or blends of oils produced different effects on mood and body symptoms. The use of aromatherapy can reduce fatigue, insomnia, nausea, and pain. Using aromatherapy during massage work enhances these benefits.
Ayurveda may be the oldest healing system originating in India 5000 to 10,000 years ago. The goal of Ayurveda is to find inner peace living a healthy life that is stress-free. Ayurveda feeds each of the five senses through music and mantras, color therapy, aromatherapy, herbs and foods, and massage and exercise.
Massage relaxes, relieves muscle cramps and spasms, loosens joints, increases functioning of blood and lymph systems, reduces stress, and increases the mind-body- spirit connections. Helping Cancer patients to relax, massage work helps to build a more positive body image, increases the sense of hope, and gives them an outlet to safely express their feelings to their therapist.
Meditation leads the mind to become calm and quiet while at the same time being completely alert. Experiencing a deep inner peace, meditation helps to overcome anger, anxiety, confusion, depression, and stress. It enables one to focus only on the present and drops thoughts of the past and self-created anxieties of the future. Using focused attention throughout meditation decreases one’s perception of tolerance towards pain, thus decreasing its impact.
Qigong combines controlled breathing, meditation, and movement which keeps the flow of energy within the body channels to flow unimpeded. When participating in Qigong, participants become more aware of their body, improve both mental and physical strength, and improve their sense of well-being. Bringing about a sense of peace improves the quality of life through reducing anxiety and fatigue while also improving general body fitness.
Reflexology involves the pressing points on the feet or hands to exact effects on another part of the human body. This resulting stimulated energy flow within particular body zones (much like the flow of energy along pathways in the practice of acupressure and acupuncture) frees energy blockages. The releasing of this blocked energy and tension enables reflexology to help anxiety, fatigue, nausea pain, and stress.
Reiki channels Omni present energy through hands-on or touch free techniques to promote healing. A form of energy therapy, Reiki is used in treatment for high blood pressure, insomnia, migraines, stress, and disagreeable digestive conditions among many other ailments. Reiki is also said to increase connection to one’s spiritual center.
Tai Chi like Qi gong combines controlled breathing, meditation, and movement. Improving quality of life through increasing agility, balance, equilibrium, flexibility and muscle tone Tai Chi brings reduced stress and calm to Cancer patients. Instead of holding rigid postures one “flows” from one strain free posture to another with awareness and calm.
Yoga combines slowing and deepening of breath, focusing the mind, and performing different poses of the body. Helping both emotional and physical well-being, yoga decreases stress, improve sleep, reduction of pain and improves overall quality of life. Designed to develop a healthy and sound mind and body the spiritual nature of yoga leads one to explore one’s attitude toward self, one’s body, and towards others.
The above Alternative Healing therapies positively impact the quality of life of Cancer patients, patients with chronic diseases, and a population searching to decrease the stress filled life of Western society.
Breaking the Barriers
Professional medical associations, pharmaceutical companies and FDA policies and regulations continue in their quest to block Alternative Healing treatments and therapies. Continued public pressure on these groups is necessary to open doors to alternatives that work. Private Citizens, specialized associations, support groups of Cancer and other diseases, and Alternative Healing practitioner associations must be instrumental in continually promoting awareness education and communicating the growing demand for healing alternatives.
The AMA, Pharmaceutical Companies and the FDA
Represented by major lobby firms, the AMA and pharmaceutical companies have a swinging door policy relationship with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Administrators of the FDA are known to find jobs within the other two upon leaving their FDA positions and vice a versa. This is led to a covert obstructionism of the truth about alternative treatments for Cancer, other diseases, and side effects due to Western medicine. The driving force behind this obstructionism is profit. Chronic diseases produce large avenues of income.
Informing the Medical Community
Insistence of Western medicine to use their system of quantitative analysis of Alternative Healing therapies has proven to be the biggest barrier to their acceptance. Although some education is being done, much more is needed within established medical communities, medical practitioners, and ancillary staff. A greater understanding of Alternative Medicine needs to be taught in their schools and some degree of rotations with Alternative healers to gain Western medicine practitioners trust to a greater degree. Medical facilities need to hold ongoing education sessions for staff. The greatest facilitative successful action is continued strides in unbiased, informative education.
With an aging population of increasing numbers combating chronic diseases such as Cancer, more people are turning to methods of Alternative Healing to improve their quality of life. A recent National Health Interview Survey reports that 38% of Americans make use of Alternative Healing with chronically ill people using these therapies at least twice as often as the non-chronically ill. Additional research also found that many patients don’t mention this fact to their doctors (42% said their provider never asked). If more people using Alternative Healing spoke openly about this fact and the successes they are experiencing with their medical providers a greater degree of curiosity and research by these providers may result.
Further “word-of-mouth” by consumers to family, friends, and on questionnaires from both medical practitioners and institutions will lead to the acknowledgment of the demand for Alternative Healing. Greater turnout for informative talks on various Alternative Healing therapies sponsored by associations, organizations, support groups, clubs, politicians, etc. visibly shows increased interest and demand.
The changes in hospital systems and health reform’s new emphasis on proactive patient care have greatly expanded the services that hospitals provide their clientele. With this expanding greater use of proven Alternative Healing modalities hospitals are finding greater patient and family satisfaction. More hospitals are noticing this trend and are adding more Alternative Healing in their patient care options. It should be no surprise that “Cancer hospitals” were among the first to incorporate Alternative Healing.
Individuals and Employers choosing insurance companies that cover some of the costs of at least some Alternative Healing Therapies is a slow process. Insurance providers are well aware of what users privately spend for these services ($354.2 Million according to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey) and are reluctant to add these as covered items in their policies.
In 2010, the Samueli Institute, a non-political research organization conducting investigations of safety, effectiveness, and integration of healing-oriented practices and environments, conducted The Complementary and Alternative Medicine Survey of Hospitals. Based on this survey they concluded that due to the rapidly aging populations in record numbers, which is more interested in spirituality and much more demanding in being part of their personal care, are seeking to complement conventional Western medical treatments for Cancer and other diseases with Alternative Therapies and treatments. Hospital administrators should be paying serious attention to these facts when creating hospital policy concerning patient care.
This trend paired with soaring medical costs will greatly aid the breaking of barriers excluding the large body of knowledge and treatments that can be used in fighting Cancer and other chronic diseases while increasing the quality of life.