CONTINUED be tested and defined much more tightly than at present.
The relationship — and widely perceived opposition — between orthodox and complementary medicine is probably the thorniest issue to arise out of the new health movements. Alternative practitioners claim that conventional drugs suppress natural healing mechanisms. often actually making people worse; doctors counter-claim that complementary remedies are ‘unscientific‘. recount horror stories
of patients abruptly taken off drugs f
in favour of a ‘natural‘ cure. with sometimes disastrous effects.
The fact is that different approaches can and do work hand-in-hand. At Glasgow‘s Homoeopathic Hospital. for instance. around 20.000 in and out—patients are treated each year — on the NHS - using a combination of alternative and conventional techniques. The hospital‘s consultant physician. David Reilly. is a member of the Faculty of Homoeopathy (the UK-wide regulatory body for the homoeopathic teaching of doctors). as well as a trained acupuncturist and hypnotherapist. ‘Our in-patients tend to be seriously ill or complex cases. many of whom are not in a position to reject conventional medicine.’ he explains. ‘()ften what we‘re doing is assessing whether the addition of a complementary technique to their care would help them further.‘
The results show fairly conclusively
Old equipment from Napier's herbal dispensary
that in many cases it does help. often '
where other treatments have proved ineffective. Of 100 in-patients questioned in a recent survey. all had already seen another specialist for the same problem; two-thirds had previously been hospitalised. ‘We‘re really seeing everyone else‘s failures.’ says Reilly. ‘So we were quite surprised to find in this survey that over 50 per cent reported an improvement in the presenting complaint. and a higher percentage reported an improvement in their mood or overall well-being. as a
result of the care: these were people where you'd really think there was no further place to go.‘
More and more doctors are being converted to the benefits of complementary techniques. with many now using them in their own surgeries. Homoeopathy is often their first choice. partly because it is the only non-orthodox treatment written into the NHS charter. which states that homoeopathic treatment must be provided if patients request it and if there are doctors trained to give it. Get requesting — over 500 Scottish GPs have now taken the
introductory course in homoeopathy for doctors run by David Reilly at the Homoeopathic Hospital. One such is Edinburgh GP Bob Leckridge, who often prescribes homoeopathically for conditions where there is no satisfactory conventional treatment. such as asthma. premenstrual syndrome and infant colic. Fairly soon. he believes. the new ‘market style‘ structure of the NHS will mean that any practice which (10am '1 offer complementary as well as orthodox medicine will find itself at a
‘Dynamic self-healing energy’ sounds great in theory, but what does it actually mean?
At present. however. there is an urgent need for guidelines to help people through the complementary maze. Dee Atkinson and others advise choosing a therapist recommended by someone you
i know. while David Reilly
emphasises that any practitioner’s claims should be carefully examined. ‘None of us should be browbeaten into feeling that we can‘t ask people awkward questions.‘ he says. ‘about who they are. where they came from and what their training is.‘ Most importantly. he believes. therapists should be aware of their own limitations. ‘The best way to find out whether the person you‘re dealing with is sussed or not is to ask the what they can’t do. what they can't treat,’ he says. ‘and then to see if the answers you get make you feel safe.‘
Aches and pains are not just to do with your physical health, but with your mental well-being as well. Frederick Matthias Alexander, a Tasmanian writer, recognised the relationship between tension and physical pain, when he discovered, in the 19th century, that anxiety during public readings was causing his body to tense up and his vocal cords to become pinched, weakening the projection of his voice. Later he noticed that, while young children have good posture, as
' they grew older they opt for an easier
slumping position that requires little effort to maintain and soon becomes established as the norm. As the Alexander Technique proposes that the spine is at the centre of most physical and mental complaints, its tutors begin classes by re-educating their patients to use their bones and muscles correctly, in many cases radically changing the way they walk, stand or sit.
The Pilates Technique is similar to Alexander‘s in that it involves a re-educatien oi the body, this time through a variety of controlled, gentle exercises. The technique was developed in the 30s by Joseph Pilates, a German-born circus performer and weight-trainer living in New York. He noticed that many dancers and
Furred tongue or lose at appetite.
86 The List-20 December 1991 — 161anuary 1992
performers were suffering injuries indirectly caused by tension accumulated in parts of the body. People with a particular physical weakness, like back pain, were compensating for it by strengthening other parts of the body, instead of dealing with the weakness itself. There is, as yet, only one Pilates studio in Scotland, the Edinburgh Pilates Centre in Torphichen Street. The director Jane Paris takes classes of up to four people, makes an assessment of each one’s individual strengths and weaknesses and guides them through appropriate exercises. Much of the exercising takes place on a plie machine (in Pilates' day it went by the foreboding name of the Universal Body Reformer), a complicated contraption designed to strengthen the pupil's
More rapid pulse.
abdominal muscles by getting him or her to push against a weight with both feet. using long-neglected muscles in a controlled, gentle way.
Classes for both techniques are not necessarily cheap — although 210—5215 for an hour and a half of individual tuition compares favourably with your average driving lessen — and the process of re-educatien can seem like hard work. Nevertheless advocates of the Alexander Technique and Pilates make persuasive claims for their benefits: in later lite distorted bones and muscles can cause all manner of ills, from respiratory and circulatory problems to hypertension and arthritis. Good posture, it seems, can save you from more than an ugly steep. (Miranda France)
9 1 y