This post is not intended to come off as “judgy”. I know that it can feel like that when someone starts describing something to avoid and you say, “Hey, I resemble that remark!” But doctors are, by definition, teachers. And where a medical doctor teaches how to escape or manage disease, a chiropractor teaches how to find or maintain health. We are on the same team, but at issue is our respective roles and where we each spend our professional time in the best interests of our patients.
The MD will absolutely support healthy lifestyles, good diet, exercise, etc. And, as a chiropractor, I will absolutely refer someone in to an MD to make sure they get time-critical advice when a problem goes beyond the scope of Chiropractic. That said, I want to address the following facts:
- 70% of us are regularly taking a prescription medicine, and on average, each of that 70% are taking 4 of them.
- 93% of adults in the U.S. self-treat with over the counter (OTC) meds before seeing an MD, and
- 81% of the time, self-treatment is sufficient…
“Big Drug” will cite these statistics to show how important OTC medicines are for Americans to manage disease in a cost-effective way and how critical they are in keeping the cost of healthcare down. The Chiropractic profession (at least I) will cite these very same statistics to reach entirely different conclusions:
Most “ailments” are actually symptoms of a normal response of a healthy body to an irritant or some other environmental pathogen. And, the efficacy studies on these medicines don’t prove that the over the counter medications enhance the healthy body’s ability to recover, but rather that they alter the symptomology through some sort of biochemical interference. Again, not meaning to sound “judgy”, just stating the truth. In medicine, symptoms are still considered indications of “disease”. The war is against disease, but it is waged primarily on a symptom battlefield.
By deduction, if 93% of us self-treat with OTC drugs before seeing an MD, that leaves 7% of U.S. Adults that do NOT opt to self-treat with OTC medicine before seeing a doctor. So what are that 7% doing? They are either scheduling an appointment with their MD for every sniffle and ache, or, more likely, they are allowing their body to follow through with resolving the symptoms naturally as their body deals with the problem. They might be doing this with the help of a non-medical resource such as a chiropractor, acupuncturist of some other care provider, or they are just listening and letting their body follow its own course. And for these people, they still recover without medical doctor intervention 81% of the time! I will go even further and say that the real reason both groups recover 81% of the time is primarily because of two simple but critical factors:
1) the person’s exposure to the pathogen or irritant is somehow discontinued, and
2) the human body is a self-healing organism.
Biochemical interventions that cause the body to do something it wouldn’t normally do havea a cost. It may be imperceptible in any given instance, and we may not be able to account for it at the time, but there is an impact. It sounds strange to say, but there has to be or there would be no “effect”. The most destructive possible outcome is the “masking” of the symptoms that allow the person to continue to manage the ailment but never let their body really wrestle it to the ground and resolve it. It is great for “Big Drug”. But it will suck the life out of a person over time, little by little. Out of the 81%, you can’t help but wonder how many have actually recovered from the problem and how many have just been drugged enough to continue on with it hidden in their breast pocket. How many of the 81% recover daily, only to relapse the next day, day in and day out until some day they just don’t recover?
Regardless of your beliefs, the only reason we exist is because our parents survived long enough to birth us. Follow that back before about 1920 and the only conclusion you can reach is that the body’s ability to deal with disease effectively allowed our species to flourish in spite of some pretty enormous odds. Pharmaceutical companies are endlessly searching for the fountain of youth, the anti-aging pill, or the restorative treatment to end all disease. But, just as Entropy only goes one direction, we have not been able to put the feral cat back into the gunny sack. In the end, you are still your best and most devoted doctor.
I will end this here, for now with a couple of parting thoughts.
- If I have a recurring headache, and a daily ibuprofen (or four) helps me manage, what are the possible costs of this approach?
- Take the next opportunity to discuss healthy living with an active person over 90 years of age. They are out there. If you are so lucky to be able to do this tactfully, ask them how they have maintained their health so effectively and what medications they are taking and for how long they have been taking them. Ask them how they feel about medicine, in general. When do they take them? When do they do something else? How do they decide?
You always have a choice. Good, bad or indifferent, life is nothing if not a continuous set of choices. If you want to talk about true approaches to health, I’d love to hear from you. That is what I do. I’d love to help you do it too.