The other day I heard the head of the alternative medicine foundation or some such on CBC radio describing alternative and traditional medicine in very large words. They are a range of ‘alternative modalities of treatment’ etc. His language was so highfalutin that the host threatened to fine him 25 cents every time he used the word ‘modalities’. She was probably going for better communication but actually she was on to something bigger. When people have little to say they say it with the biggest words possible.
In any case, our expert went on to say that you can’t really define alternative medicine because it encompassed so much from ‘healing touches‘ (oh my god just rattle those chicken bones over me) to things like herbal therapies and physiotherapy.
Now, when you get to a certain age, spending time in the physiotherapist’s office is kind of part of your monthly routine. I wouldn’t say it is as much for your peace of mind as anything else but I do know that once you learn the various exercises for different injuries and aliments, you don’t really need to go back except to be nagged to actually do them. As for chiropractors, yeah, well, whatever.
My problem with all this stuff is that it doesn’t often stand up to scientific explanation or investigation and as soon as people say — and they have said to me — well, of course not, because traditional healing has as much to do with the spirit as the body and not everything can be measured.
Well, as we like to say about various claims of physical prowess — if there are no pictures, it didn’t happen. If you can’t measure an effect, then there was no effect. That’s the way the physical universe works. And of course there is the placebo effect.
So when you tell me about the magical properties of this or that herb or this or that treatment ‘modality’ I point out that the key word is ‘magical’ as in ‘magical thinking‘. You might as well press your ass to the TV screen while an evangelist is preaching — it could well cure your hemorrhoids. Or simply be a political statement as in my case.
I’ve also been told that ‘I studied 4 years to become an x, y or z practitioner’. To which I reply, I could devise a course of study that it would take you four years to learn but it wouldn’t necessarily mean you knew anything more at the end than at the beginning. Made up stuff is made up stuff no matter how long it takes you to learn it.
A lot of these things have, in fact, been studied scientifically using double blind studies. A few of them have been shown to be effective for a limited range of illnesses (though never for the wide range claimed of them). Those are medicine. No modifier required.
All the rest? A lot of hoo-haw.
And that’s ten minutes.