A Guide to Navigating Medical Options
When it comes to health care options, perhaps your family has the same understanding as mine. Try to find the best primary care MD that you can, hope that when you get sick, they have some sort of answer or refer you to a specialist who does, and hope that insurance covers the enormous cost.
Witnessing my beloved grandparents wither away with surgery after surgery and pharmaceutical after pharmaceutical made me question in my teens whether this understanding of health care was all there was. From my perspective the care (which in Boston was considered some of the best) did not bring my family members back to states of health, it appeared to simply manage their pain and weaken their spirit. It appeared to be sick care, not health care.
A debilitating back injury in my twenties forced the difficulty of health care choice upon me at a young age. The best orthopedic surgeons I could find in Los Angeles each told me I needed surgery and most likely would require multiple surgeries with continued on again, off again, cortisone injections and pain killers for the rest of my life. Having witnessed my paternal grandparents experience this reality, I was resolved to find other options. My injury sent me on a health journey that eventually taught me an extensive amount about our health care system and our health care options and led me to become a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and an Integrative Physician.
To be clear regarding my view of Industrialized Modern Medicine. It’s extraordinary in an emergency. Broken bones, accidents, acute events, it is simply amazing and the physicians who attend to these situations are heroic. There’s a reason for this excellence in emergency care. The foundation of Modern Medicine is battle field medicine. This approach to medicine literally grew out of emergency circumstance, and with technological advances this battle field medicine has only improved in its ability to attend to emergency situations.
However, most health issues are not emergency or acute in nature. They are functional in nature. The body, as an integrative system, is simply not functioning well. Whether it be nervous system dis-regulation with pain, or digestive and metabolic system dis-regulation with auto-immunity and diabetes, or psycho-emotional issues which are metabolic and nervous system dis-regulations, or immune system weakness with an inability to fight off viruses. All of these are functional issues, not acute, emergency issues. Unfortunately, what happens when we address these functional issues with an acute intervention (like pharmaceuticals or surgery), the situation is exacerbated by the trauma of surgery or further dis-regulated by pharmaceuticals.
So, let’s step back and take a look at what the medical options are and what makes them different and, in actuality, complementary.
The prevailing medicine in our society is an Industrialized Medical Model. As with any industrialized model, it needs to fit the product and service into a mechanical system. The service is provided by the M.D., nurses, and support staff, and the product is pharmaceuticals. Services are provided so long as they fit within an industrialized category (diagnosis code), that triggers an industrialized protocol and payment from the insurance to the service provider (hospital, doctor’s office, or. pharmacy). This industrialization of medicine necessitates viewing the patient (or the patient’s body) as a machine. The machine (you) has component parts that are addressed as acting in isolation to allow for the efficiency of specialties within the industrialized model. You’re essentially placed on a conveyor belt.
The diagnostic system also applies a one size fits all intervention. You’re condition fits the criteria of a particular diagnosis, you receive that diagnosis and with it a corresponding generic intervention. That intervention my be surgical or pharmaceutical. Interventions that force the body to do something. The surgery forces a physical change and the pharmaceutical forces a chemical change.
Integrative Medicine takes a very different approach based on a very different model. With 3000 years of documented clinical application, Integrative Medicine, has it’s roots in an agrarian, village environment where the welfare of the village was dependent on keeping the population well. This perspective and approach is very different than a medicine with roots on the battle field.
Rather than view the body as a machine, the body is viewed as an extension of, or more precisely, an expression of nature. Just as nature is a system that relies on circulation, nutrient collaboration (soil, air, water), so does the body. It is considered to be an inter-reliant, interdependent biological organism, an integrated system.
Diagnosis and therapeutic intervention address the system as a whole. The therapeutic process is customizable and designed to remove the obstacles that prevent the body from expressing the function of health. The idea being, provide the conditions for the body to express healthy function and it will regain its health.