Technology has put information about every possible topic at our fingertips, and that includes medical advice. Even if you don’t have a medical degree, a quick online search can yield dozens of websites, blogs, and informative videos on what might be causing symptoms and what actions to take. Unfortunately, not all of this advice is sound, and without years of formal study, it can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction.
When an individual’s health is at stake, most people will consult their doctor. However, in today’s information-driven world, an increasing number of patients have come to learn about traditional medical practices. Even without ample scientific evidence, these forms of alternative treatment are on the rise. What separates the two systems, why are they treated differently, and should we choose one over the other?
Scientific methods lead to advances
This probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but the modern medical system works due to the rigors of the scientific method. Evidence-based studies are conducted and subject to peer review so that results can be replicated anywhere; if several studies and trials conclude that a drug works in a particular treatment, it’s not a fluke. Scientific progress also brings advances in technology across the board; the closer you are to innovation centers, the more you get to witness the difference.
In a tech capital like Redwood City, an orthodontist will have cutting-edge equipment and offer advanced procedures, for instance. The advent of Western medicine across the world has led to dramatic gains in life expectancy and reduction in child and maternal mortality. There is a clear gap in statistical results between countries that have adopted these advances and those which, for various reasons, have yet to do so.
Traditional practices on the rise
Despite its undeniable benefits, modern medicine also has its shortcomings. Clinical trials may take time to be validated sufficiently, causing delays in much-needed treatment hitting the market. A drug may be tested rigorously for its effectiveness, and subjects may not show any adverse reaction during the test period, but only later would some people start to learn about long-term side effects.
Even though you could say that people who become disillusioned with modern medicine are in the minority, there’s no question that their search for alternative solutions has brought traditional practices into the mainstream. Herbal remedies and supplements such as ginkgo biloba and ginseng are widely available; many establishments offer conventional treatment methods such as acupuncture or chiropractic care. The practice of yoga, in particular, has been embraced as a way of improving overall well-being instead of treating a specific disease.
Combining both approaches
Traditional practices have been handed down through generations; many have survived over centuries. They work through experience, but aren’t tested scientifically; some people may benefit, others may not. Western medicine can be slow to progress but has achieved incredible results as a system. Both approaches can benefit from each other. Traditional methods can integrate modern systems and provide a therapy-based treatment such as homeopathy. Scientists can mine the list of traditional remedies for various diseases, and refine these herbs into cures such as artemisinin for malaria, or lovastatin to lower cholesterol.
Effective health care doesn’t have to be a battlefield of modern medicine versus traditional practices; practitioners stand to gain by learning from both. For the individual, what matters is still receiving the right treatment from a qualified professional.