BY SYEDA NAUSHEEN – Ever since the rise of Western medicine in the 19th century, there has been an ongoing battle, within the medical community, regarding Eastern and Western medicine. Both health care practices hold different but valid positions; therefore, whether one approach is better than another is strictly a matter of opinion.
Western medicine, also known as allopathic or modern medicine, is based on scientific theory and it uses a deductive approach. The deductive approach entails applying an existing theory to develop a hypothesis and then analyzing that hypothesis by designing a research strategy. This approach allows conclusions to be deduced, as it views all medical phenomenon as cause-and-effect patterns. The nature of western medicine is completely science-based due to its high reliance on drugs, surgery, radiation, etc. as treatment options in order to alleviate symptoms and cure illnesses.
There are many pros to the use of Western medicine. One positive is that modern medicine is based on evidence. Therefore, pharmaceutical companies must undergo intensive, strict trials in order to prove the effectiveness of their drugs. The manufacturing of the drugs is also highly regulated to make sure no contamination occurs and that the safety requirements set by the FDA are met. Another advantage is that, nowadays, physicians must undergo years of extensive training in order to prove their skills as medical professionals. Also, doctors have access to a greater variety of advanced medical equipment, which allows physicians to diagnose diseases more accurately and treat patients efficiently and quickly. Because Western medicine emphasizes alleviating symptoms in the short term, physicians are better trained in treating acute diseases, rather than chronic diseases.
Although the advantages of Western medicine outweigh the disadvantages, the disadvantages cannot be outright ignored. One con of Western medicine is the potential of medication to produce minor, or even serious, side effects. Many patients find themselves stuck in a cycle, where they take drugs to lessen the side effects of the medication that was originally prescribed. Also, a research study conducted by The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania found that Western drugs induce a “boomerang effect,” in which patients that are taking medication perceive a reduced importance of and motivation to participate in positive behaviors and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Another disadvantage to Western medicine is the high costs. As advancements in research continue to improve drugs and medical equipment, the prices will also escalate.
On the other hand, Eastern medicine is regarded as a more holistic and natural practice. Eastern medicine heavily depends upon the inductive approach, in which theories are developed as a result of the observations that are made. A broad chunk of Eastern medicine is made up of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM focuses on the patient as whole, rather than separate systems and organs, and attempts to stimulate the body’s self-healing mechanisms. TCM was founded on the following ancient beliefs: diseases arise due to imbalances between two opposing forces (yin and yang), the human body represents the surrounding universe, the five elements (water, fire, earth, metal, wood) explain how the body operates, and a vital energy (Qi) helps to maintain an individual’s health (NCCIH). TCM includes the use of acupuncture, herbal medicines, therapeutic massage, tai chi, etc. to treat health problems.
Eastern medicine also offers many advantages to its users. One advantage is the importance Eastern medicine places on caring for the patient as a whole. Due to this, Eastern medicine addresses not only the body but also the emotional well being, mental stability, and spiritual health of the individual. Also, practitioners of Eastern medicine are expected to provide their patients with a greater degree of one-on-one attention. Unlike Western medicine, Eastern medicine treatments emphasize preventative medicine by encouraging people to partake in activities that help prevent diseases from occurring in the first place.
One disadvantage of Eastern medicine is the lack of a substantial amount of scientific research. Only limited types of Eastern medicine treatments have been scientifically proven to improve health. Another disadvantage is that Eastern medicine does not provide immediate results. Eastern medicine focuses on bringing healthy lifestyle changes within the patient’s’ life and is generally used to heal long-term symptoms.
Both Western and Eastern medical practices have benefits and drawbacks. Therefore, it is not necessary to choose one over the other. In the marketplace today, Western and Eastern medicine coexist and consumers pick and choose between the two approaches, depending on the type of treatment they seek.