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DR. STEMMLER’S MONTHLY TEACHING ROUNDS

JUNE, 1998

What’s New in Medicine – East and West

(Copyright Stemmler, 1998)

EAST

Four hundred and sixty patients were asked to write the stories of their experience with Chinese medicine in a qualitative and quantitative survey of six acupuncture clinics in five states. 91. 5% reported that their symptoms and complaints had "disappeared" or "improved" in the presence of Chinese medicine, and the majority stated that their quality of life had improved, they required less frequent doctor visits and they were using fewer prescriptions.

(From: Cassidy, E.: "Chinese Medicine in the U.S., Part II: Preferred Aspects of Care" The Jrl. of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 4, No. 2, 1998, pp. 189-202, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.)

COMMENTS: The majority of patients in this study had already exhausted standard Western approaches as well as "other" alternative modalities. For example, one patient wrote: "In 1992 I began seeing a medical doctor for shoulder and arm pain. He gave me pain killers and muscle relaxers…That did not help. I began going to the chiropractor in March, 1993…only temporary relief. I began acupuncture treatments and after six treatments my pain was gone…" During these early stages of the assimilation of Chinese medicine in America, patients are still seeking such care as a last resort. Many side effects, unnecessary cost and suffering could be prevented by using Chinese medicine as a first line of approach when indicated, and when prescribed by a physician with knowledge in both the Eastern and Western medical fields.

WEST

-Cancer accounted for more than 23% of all deaths in 1997.

-The cost of cancer has increased from $35 billion in 1990 to $50 billion in 1996.

-2/3 of all cancers can be prevented.

(From: Smith, T. and Swisher, K.: "Telling the Truth about Terminal Cancer", JAMA, June 3, 1998, vol. 279, No.21)

COMMENTS: An old Chinese saying suggests that "treating a disease once it manifests is like digging a well after one becomes thirsty." There is no better prevention than a healthy lifestyle: a good, natural diet, harmonious personal relationships and a job one really enjoys. And no drugs or chemicals for healthy people; they should be reserved for serious diseases. A healthy person does not need to reach for an over-the-counter drug every time he/she sneezes or has a twinge of pain. Fun exercise, time outdoors in Nature, reflection and solitude, moments of silence, good books, laughter and the playfulness of a child are the best disease prevention, as well as a respect for the laws of Nature and the order of life.

 

EAST

Coronary heart disease is called a "Bi disorder of the chest" in Chinese medicine. A particular selection of acupuncture points known as "Opening heart orifice" was used on 50 patients (40 males, 10 females, ages 36-83), of which 35 had angina (chest pain), 15 had MI’s (heart attacks), and 50 had high lipids and high blood pressure. Patients were all kept on their regular medications, but 50 of them were also treated with Moxibustion on a set of points over a period of time, while a control group of another 50 patients with similar conditions were not. Moxibustion is the stimulation of acupuncture points with an ignited cigar-like device, made of rolled up leaves of "Artemisia Vulgaris", a mugwort used for medicinal purposes in China. Such intervention led to normalization of the EKG’s (electrocardiograms) and disappearance of symptoms such as chest pain, palpitations, dizziness, depression, and cold extremities in the treated group, while the patients in the control group had only some improvements, but no normalization of their EKG’s and symptoms.

(From: Zhuang, Li-Xiang: Moxibustion for Opening Heart Orifice: A report of 50 cases. International Jrl. of Chinese Acupuncture, Vol. 9, #1, 1998)

COMMENTS: Having a serious illness such as heart disease does not preclude the use of Chinese medicine. In fact, here is a situation where the integration of both East and West may make quite a difference in the patient’s quality of life and survival. While standard medications may positively affect the blood pressure, the coronary vessels and the ability of the heart to contract appropriately, Chinese medicine’s main role (especially acupuncture and moxibustion) is to "Open the channels" (the meridians through which the "Qi" (chee), the energy or the vital essence circulate), and prepare the patient for his/her recovery and best response to treatment. It is important to know when, how and what to use when combining Chinese and Western medicine. Careful selection of needling, moxibustion and/or herbs and dietary recommendations are essential to favorably affect the patient’s prognosis, as compared to using standard Western medicine alone.

WEST

A review of 39 studies from U.S. hospitals between 1966 and 1996 revealed the incidence of serious and fatal adverse drug reactions (ADR) to be extremely high. It was estimated in this study that in 1994 in the U.S. 106,000 hospital patients died of ADR’s, which would rank adverse drug effects as the 4th to 6th leading cause of death in this country, right after heart disease (743,460 deaths), cancer (529,904 deaths), and stroke (150,108 deaths) for that same year. Such an incidence was found to be stable over the last 30 years in the studies analyzed.

(From: Lazarou, J., Pomeranx, B. and Corey, P.: Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions in Hospitalized Patients. JAMA, April 15, 1998, vol. 279, No. 15, pp. 1200-1205)

COMMENTS: Hospitals are strictly for the very sick—the enchantment some people have with emergency rooms, hospital beds and surgical procedures, is a double-edged sword. Why do some patients have 6-7 surgeries done before they are 40, while others have never seen a hospital interior?

Hospitals are fertile grounds are infection transmission (often resistant to most antibiotics) medication errors, procedural mistakes, falls, and a variety of unexpected complications.

Go to a hospital only when absolutely necessary, and to surgery only after 3 different opinions, preferably not within the same group of doctors or region of practice.

Christina Stemmler, MD


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