Western medicine today can no longer ignore the fact that half of the patients apply for Alternative Medicine in one form or another. In the USA alone, the number of patients who actually approached Alternative Medicine healers went up from 427 million in 1990 to 629 million in 1997. Some 42% of all Americans received at least one Alternative Medicine treatment in 1997 (JAMA 220: 1569.75 Nov. 11, 1998). Treatments defined as Alternative or Complementary Medicine are not taught in medical schools and generally are not offered by hospitals. Alternative or Complementary Medicine covers fields not addressed by the official health system, following the policy and culture of local societies. Use of Alternative Medicine is more common in industrial states. Studies held outside the USA present an increasing incidence of applying this type of treatment worldwide – from 10% of the population inDenmark to some 49% of the Australians,(45% iIn Israel). The expanding popularity and use of Alternative Medicine in our century follows from the sense of dissatisfaction with conventional medicine, mainly from its failure to address the human aspect of an illness. Alternative Medicine is, in fact, based on four basic values:
1. Opting for natural medication, rather than synthetic substances
2. Examining the root of the problem, not just its symptoms
3. Seeing the patient as a whole entity, instead of merely attacking the disorder
4. Focusing on preventive medicine, which takes precedence over treating diseases after they break out
Although traditional and Alternative Medicine share values and purposes, there are several major distinctions between the two: An Alternative Medicine therapist normally spends more time with each patient, who is generally satisfied with the level of rapport they establish. Such an association helps patients better understand their condition and encourages them to seek improvement in their own personal way. In traditional medicine, healing is the doctor’s job alone, while patients are actually health consumers or clients, having no role to play in their healing process. Use of advanced technology also dissociates the patient from the diagnostic process, diminishing his uniqueness in the physician’s eyes. Physicians narrow down the problem, from the patient as a human being to the specific infected organ. This leads to a unified mode of operation, and the application of a unified technology-oriented solution further diminishes the interpersonal aspect.
Alternative Medicine encompasses numerous healing methods, some of which are known and even acceptable to the medical community, while others are rather esoteric and unknown. The methods share a view of basic energy. They all address a principle according to which a life-giving and sustaining energy rhythmically and constantly circulates the body. An illness is an obstruction of that natural flow of energy.
Oriental cultures such as the Chinese, Japanese and Indian are established upon this very principle and their medicine is part of the culture as a whole. A deep observation of those cultures will show that they use different and seemingly unrelated treatment methods. While Indian medicine focuses on psychic-energetic centers in the body, the Chakras, Chinese medicine addresses the bolstering of energy flow along energy channels, the Meridians.