The Long Tide

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Alternative" Medicine?

In current parlay, any healing practice that doesn't emerge from western-medicine, is referred to as, “alternative.” What if we framed our thinking and reference to all healing approaches so they were all considered “alternative?” How might this change a patient’s sense of choice when coping with a difficult health issue?

In early summer of last year a client of mine suffered an excruciating attack of trigeminal neuralgia. She was found on her kitchen floor in tears and brought to the emergency room. She was given anti-seizure medication to get the pain under control, which she reluctantly took. She had already been unable to work for some time and, as a self-employed person, needed to get back to it.

In August an MRI ruled out the possibility of a brain tumor. As a permanent solution for the trigeminal neuralgia her neurologist suggested brain surgery during which a hole would be drilled into her skull through which the trigeminal nerve would be severed. The costs - about $200,000. To my client, this didn't sound like a good idea or financially viable, as she would have to come up with $40,000.

From the beginning of her disease my client sought acupuncture treatments, and in September she added weekly cranio-sacral therapy treatments. By the end of September, she weaned herself off the seizure medication, and by the end of November (and ever since) she has been pain-free. Costs in total (the majority spent on diagnosis by western-medical practitioners) - around $5,000.

This was a fortunate case. But I believe that non-invasive methods of treatment that have no side- or residual effects should be the standard and conservative way to go first. The more aggressive, invasive forms of treatments offered by western medicine always remain an option, and in my opinion should be the alternative. This would reduce the costs of heath care exponentially.

What kind of treatment would you have chosen? I admire my client for her choice, and hope I’d make the same in a similar situation, though it is so counter-cultural.

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