Angry Doctor

Monday, September 25, 2006

How NOT to argue for Alternative Medicine 3

Remember this letter?

It has brought two replies to the ST Forum today.

The first one was rather business like. The second one... well, the second one provides material for our intellectual exercise today.

The term osteopathy actually covers a range of beliefs and practices and the term 'Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine' can mean different things depending on which part of the world you are in. I will leave the readers to find out more about the subject.

What is interesting to angry doc is how Dr Tio's letter contains some of the arguments typically used to support alternative medicine. I reproduce the letter in full below.

Try and see which ones of angry doc's advice on how NOT to argue for Alternative Medicine would apply to this letter; angry doc has highlighted certain interesting key words and phrases to help you along.

Answers on the back of a postcard or the comments section please.

Chiropractors mislead patients? People respond differently to treatment

Kindly allow me, as one of the longest-serving members of the osteopathy and chiropractic profession in Singapore, to comment on the letter 'Beware chiropractors who mislead patients' (ST, Sept 16).

Osteopathy and chiropractic share similar origins, philosophies and treatment techniques. We believe that "structure governs function" - the structure of the body's muscular-skeletal system affects body functions and health.

Through manipulation and other techniques, we restore balance to the body's structure and this allows the body to heal itself.

Typically, we treat people with aches and pains. However, we also treat patients suffering from other ailments such as digestive or respiratory disorders.

We treat the person, not the illness. And because every person is different, it is impossible for us to predict exactly how many treatment sessions a person needs - just as it is impossible to predict that a person with the flu will recover in two days or two weeks.

In general, acute problems, such as a locked joint, can be easily corrected with one or two treatments. Chronic problems, such as arthritic knee pain, or scoliosis (spinal curvature) require regular treatment over a period of time.

Each treatment session produces changes in the body which vary with the individual. We would access [sic] the condition of the patient during each consultation and customise the treatment accordingly.

Package deals, whereby every patient buys the same number of treatments, ignore the fact that every individual responds differently to treatment and has different needs.

In our training, we are also taught that over-treatment - including treatment that is too vigorous and treatment given too frequently - can be as bad as, or worse than, no treatment. It can lead to a worsening of pain. Thus, we refrain from over-treating.

As a service to the public, some of us offer free screenings for scoliosis and other conditions. A number of scientific studies have shown that osteopathic and chiropractic treatment, especially when given in the early stages of a condition, can help patients avoid surgery, which can be painful, costly and risky.

Generally, we do this within our clinics as a form of service, not in public malls as a form of marketing.

I have witnessed the profession grow and develop over the past 22 years. When I set up my practice in 1984, there was only one chiropractic clinic in Singapore, and mine was the first osteopathic clinic.

Today, there are about 30 chiropractors and osteopaths practising here. Competition has greatly intensified and this has led some practitioners to market their services aggressively.

Yet the number of practitioners in Singapore is still minuscule. If you flip through the Yellow Pages of cities in the United States, Britain and Australia, you will find pages and pages of osteopaths and chiropractors.

I thank Ms Michelle Tan for highlighting a recent, but nevertheless unhealthy, development within the profession.

Being personally acquainted with the older and more established practitioners in Singapore, I can assure readers that they uphold high standards of integrity and professionalism.

Dr David Tio

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