In Part 1 of this post we dealt with the historical and philosophical reasons for the bias towards a reductionistic mindset in modern day thinking, and how this affects current understanding of the concepts health and wellness. I also asked questions about the common understanding of the term science, and how the authority of contemporary Science has robbed many of the responsibility to think, reason and experience holistic life for themselves.
In this post I’d like to show specific ways in which reductionistic science has harmed the Western concept of health, and is still keeping us from growing a deeper understanding of the holistic wonders of human potential. I’ll point out the consequences of fewer people engaging in critical reasoning, and therefore less questions being asked about science, particularly in the area of modern medicine.
Nowhere else is the manifestations of this authoritative power of science more evident than in the Medical Care system (or Health Care as called in some countries). In contemporary society money means power. Although Science (the global body of scientist) does not have a big enough wallet to have it’s own way, they are funded by pharmaceutical companies who certainly do.
The increase of medical research funding by pharmaceutical companies from $1.5 billion in 1980, to $22 billion in 2001 (Warner & Roberts 2004), has created a huge conflict of interest which threatens scientific integrity. Not only are researchers less likely to publish findings unfavourable to the ‘interested party’, results are often manipulated to suit the desired outcome of the drug company.
Dr Mercola explains it as such: “Our current medical system has been masterfully orchestrated by the drug companies to create a system that gives the perception of science when really it is a heavily manipulated process designed to […] deceive you into using expensive and potentially toxic drugs that benefit the drug companies more than it benefits your health”.
Due to the greedy financial interest of drug companies, all research money and efforts are spent on developing drugs and procedures that treat symptoms at cellular level, at the cost of researching solutions for causes of disease on an holistic level. The net effect: millions are diagnosed with chronic “conditions” for which they have to use prescription drugs for the rest of their lives, as these will never cure them.
An interesting fact related to this is that pharmaceutical companies spend almost twice as much on marketing than on research! The sting in this deadly tale is that the more medical drugs you use, the more toxic and desensitized your body becomes, and the less healing potential it has. Not to mention that 45% of overdose deaths are related to prescription drugs in the US, compared to 39% caused by street drugs like heroin and cocaine combined.
Sadly, health no longer is the driving motive in this Health Care system. Money is. It should in fact be called a Disease Care system, as the focus is on treatment of disease, not on promoting health. For this exact reason, medical practitioners are schooled in the prescription of medical drugs, not in preventing disease. No wonder a doctor’s consultation last only 15 minutes!
A true health care system with a dedicated mission to preventing disease, will empower patients with a pro-active awareness of what they need in order to remain healthy, and provide them with knowledge and guidance in how to remedy the causes of illness. Such a health care system could however threaten pharmaceutical companies with bankruptcy…
I’ve been practising my own scientific research for the last 15 years, with at most the same, but no more bias than that of medical science, since my driving motive is that of love for my well-being. In choosing to live a pro-actively balanced life in caring for my health and learning to understand my body, I’ve not had the need of a medical doctor or any pharmaceutical medication during this time. (By the grace of God I’ve not been in any traumatic accident, for which I definitely would prefer medical care.)
Thanks to the information age we live in, over the last decade or so many more have become aware of the ignorance and half-truths of the medical industry, and are beginning to take personal responsibility for their health. Or, they are seeking help from holistic practitioners such as Naturopaths to help them on this journey. They’ve chosen truth to be their authority, instead of being enslaved by an authority which contradicts the essence of intelligent life.
Despite the growth in awareness of the ignorance of general medical care, there still exist an area where the effects of reductionistic science has gone almost unnoticed. I’m referring to Kinesiology and other related movement sciences. As these are typically taught in schools of medicine, they generally suffer from a similar ignorance to an holistic appreciation of life.
In order for medical schools to package a movement science that can be taught with a relative amount of scientific authority, simple maps were created that can be applied to ‘similar’ problems. In practice, this most often leads to assumptions based on anatomical isolation and linear thinking. Mostly because there is a huge difference between cadaver anatomy and functional anatomy – the map is not the territory.
Although knowledge of anatomy, physiology and biomechanics allows for naming the different parts and where they attached to the skeletal system, it doesn’t tell you how they function in different situations. Also, in working with movement dysfunction, every individual represents a unique territory, and although maps give us direction, we need to also read the signs along the way. The key often lies in the messy detail, which you won’t find in medical text books.
Ignorance of the complementary and seamlessly integrated functioning of muscles in synergistic execution of whole movement patterns; or of the dynamic support of web-like connective tissue; or of the impedimentary effects of Trigger Points on muscular functioning; or of the sensory system’s monitoring and involuntary adjustments of movement; makes it impossible to understand movement dysfunction, causes of injury or chronic pain.
The wonderful complexity of the living body allows it to respond dynamically, and often unpredictably, to the stimulus of any of it’s various integrated systems. For example, the innate wisdom and survival instinct of the body can be seen in its use of neuromuscular inhibition, in which it partially restrains contractile potential of certain muscles around a joint in order not to harm an opposing muscle, of which functionality may be compromised due to weakness, injury or immobility.
A lack of understanding of this coping mechanism often leads to futile energy being spent on addressing the superficial ‘inactive’ muscle, and none on the underlying dysfunction. It is of course much easier to obtain ‘positive’ results when treating an isolated superficial ‘problem’, and allows for a false sense of achievement in having done evidence based work, as some so eagerly proclaim. Whether this solves the movement dysfunction is another matter all together…
Gray Cook, author of the book Movement, says this about the reductionistic approach in basic kinesiology: “We need to focus on movement patterns, letting body parts develop naturally, instead of zeroing in on body parts and expecting natural movement patterns to spontaneously emerge.” Gray is also the pioneer behind the Functional Movement System, the only system of holistic movement appraisal (backed by scientific research) I have ever come across.
By application of the Functional Movement System philosophy and its corrective strategies, coupled with Trigger point therapy and other soft tissue techniques, I have successfully helped loads of people overcome chronic movement dysfunction or pain, in a natural way. Most of these people (whether competitive sportsmen of weekend warriors), where unable to find solutions in the contemporary medical model, or were told surgery was the only solution.
Many of them struggled with knee pain for example. Based on my experience, 9 out of 10 times the underlying cause of pain in the knee lies outside the knee (with exception of traumatic injuries such as ligament tears). By addressing imbalances in the ankle and hip joint (as suggested in the Joint-by-Joint approach) and in muscles that stabilize the knee, I’ve had a 100% success rate over the last 6 years in resolving knee pain.
I’m no miracle worker – I simply give attention to detail and make sure to remove any possible limitations that might interfere with the functioning of the knee. Nature does the rest. You see, pain is not the problem, merely the symptom pointing to a problem – like the red light on the dashboard saying “stop and have a look under the bonnet!”.
With concrete evidence of so many people overcoming their condition through manual therapy and corrective training, my conservative assumption is that far more than 50% of knee surgeries today are unnecessary. What about MRI scans that proof the need for surgery, you might ask. The truth about MRI’s is that anyone who’s been living an active life or is approaching middle age, will have some imperfections show up in a picture of their knee joint due to normal wear and tear.
To use a visual image as proof of the cause of sensory pain, has as much conclusive value as using an x-ray to find the cause of a headache. And due to the lack of alternative explanations for what could be causing the pain, blame has to be shifted on something. Ask our friend the Meniscus who so frequently has to take the rap…
Of course this is not what surgeons will tell you. Makes me think of the old business proverb: “Never ask a barber if he thinks you need a haircut.” Your surgeon has bills to pay (even if for that 2nd annual overseas holiday), and can only offer you the solutions in his toolbox.
The bottom line is, due to the lack of functional understanding of the human body and pain, medical practitioners are diagnosing and treating functional problems as medical problems. The result: thousands of unnecessary surgeries and other medical procedures. Apart from the high cost implication for patients, the effects of surgery on the body is traumatic and irreversible.
On top of that, with the underlying dysfunction which caused the initial pain not receiving any attention, now coupled with altered movement patterns as a consequence of surgery, the body will continue to compensate for its movement imbalances. The result: further overuse leading to more injury, and most likely, more surgery. And thus the cycle continues…
Am I saying there is no real concern for care in the medical industry? No. There are some wonderful practitioners who truly seek to serve patients with the best they have. Unfortunately, since very few expand on their initial education with more holistic knowledge of health, most remain pawns in an industry that is craftily designed towards reactive care, with no emphasize or research knowledge of proactive care.
Judged by the unwillingness amongst the medical profession to learn from those outside the system, one could assume they know all there is to know is about the majestic functioning of the human body. The high numbers of degenerative disease in modern society, or escalating consumption of pharmaceuticals, or of sports injury (even amongst professionals), tells a different story though.
“We do not know a millionth part of one per cent about anything”, said Thomas Edison. This attitude of humility was echoed by Albert Einstein: “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” Great and dedicated scientist as they were, somehow these men recognized the limitations of empirical science and human knowledge in understanding life. The fact that medical scientists of our day claim to have all the answers, speaks volumes of their ignorance.
We shouldn’t only blame medical doctors for this. You see, the real problem is not that the medical system has a keyhole perspective, but that the world has given them divine-like authority despite their obvious limitations. As John Robbins said in Reclaiming Our Health, “Doctors will come down from their thrones when we get off our knees”.
Sure the education offered in medical schools is biased towards the needs of the system. And yes, pride that comes with power contributes to the ignorance of modern medicine. However, it’s the lack of critical questioning by society that has led to a blasé attitude amongst many medical practitioners to the possibility that on certain matters, they might be in the dark.
The fact that someone is an expert in medicine does not make him a specialist in movement or in health. However, these unmerited powers are given him by an ignorant world. It is the blind faith that society has put in medical doctors that allows millions of consumers to be convinced by manipulated ‘scientific’ information and poor logic.
As human beings we have all been endowed with responsibility – “response-ability” (as defined by Steven Covey). We have the freedom to choose our response to life. Proactive people recognise this responsibility and their behaviour is a consequence of their own choices based on values. Many however, willingly relinquish this freedom (consciously or not) to conditions or agents outside of themselves. This is the nature of reactive people.
The habit of reactive living is what the medical system thrives on – promising a number of quick fixes for those who choose to give responsibility for their health, to them. The cost in short, is slavery. The alternative is choosing to exercise your proactive power: taking initiative to act before you are acted upon by conditions, ill-health or injury. This doesn’t mean you can control everything, but that you identify those things you have control over and take responsibility for them.
This is the path towards growing in self-awareness. Becoming fully aware of the wonder of life within you – of the gift you’ve been given in having dominion over a phenomenally coordinated matrix of many physical systems, a mind, a soul and spirit potential. And most extraordinary, how all of these elements of you function in sync with the whole. You are so much more than the some of your parts!