Biomedical provides an explanation for the structure and function of the body in health and sickness

“The biomedical model, which is the orthodox, traditional model treats the parts that cause the problem”, which according to this approach is only the physical aspects of a person. However, the holistic approach differs immensely to the biomedical. Holism considers a person as a whole, treating not only physical illness, but also “further analysing psychological or social disorders which may also be present. ” (UK-Learning, 2001-03) Through research and further studies surrounding both the biomedical and holistic approach we shall observe how appropriate these two approaches are when applied to each other.

Over the last century the most influencing model in health has been the traditional biomedical model. Biomedical models of health see the body as a biological machine made up of many parts. This approach is known as the reductionist approach, when only a small part and not the whole person is taken into account. It has been invaluable in gaining scientific knowledge about the body but ruled out the mind. ” (UK-Learning, 2001-03) The biomedical approach is strongly influenced by ‘cartesian dualism’.

Sheridan and Radmacher (1992) describe the definition of ‘cartesian dualism’ as the “mind and body as separate substances”. Rene Descartes also made this observation during the seventeenth century. Using mechanical dolls to represent a person he observed how they could make such similar movements to that of a human, but they could not “duplicate higher human operations” such as emotions. It was this that led Descartes to identify a split between the functions of the body and the mind.

Descartes believed that, “our bodies were like machines but that our minds were a very different kind of spiritual entity. ” (Sheridan and Radmacher, 1992) This biomedical paradigm is described by other researchers such as David McClelland, a leading researcher in Health Psychology, as a ‘mechanistic model’. “Within the framework of the biomedical model, only the biochemical factors of illness are considered” (Sheridan and Radmacher, 1992), this approach does not acknowledge “what affects could be had upon the body by psychological, social and physical dimensions”.

Although it is important that we maintain our physical health, there is now more acceptance and also emphasis placed upon other aspects of the body that influence our health, such as the mind and spirit which are beliefs of the Holistic approach. (UK-Learning, 2001-03) The holistic approach uses methods outside the scientific framework, placing great emphasis on the spiritual and psychological factors within a person. Through this approach humans are viewed as existing at several levels, for example, the physical, mental and spiritual.

Holism differs to biomedicine in that “physical illnesses are seen as having mental and spiritual causes as well as those stressed by traditional medicine. ” (Sheridan and Radmacher, 1992) “Holistic models say that to consider the body without taking into account the social and psychological aspects, would give a misleading diagnosis of the health of that body,” as the “body reacts as a whole so therefore must it be treated as a whole”. (UK-Learning, 2001-2003. Therefore, when searching for an accurate diagnosis the holistic therapist would take into account the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects.

Those involved in holism believe that it is important to look at all of these dimensions when defining health. It is important the body be viewed as a whole rather than in parts to ensure complete harmony and balance. Baum (1998) discusses holism stating, “whilst modern medical science struggles to make patients get better, complementary medicine aids patients to feel better”, later saying that, “by feeling better the act of healing itself may be complemented.

An excellent description that Baum makes about holism is that, “the self is perceived as the platform on the three-legged stool of the mind, body and spirit and if the glue that sticks one of the three legs to the platform softens, then the structure collapses. ” Through this description Baum has actually emphasised just how essential it is that we take care of not only the body but also the mind and spirit, to ensure that we maintain good health. Vincent and Furnham (cited by Sugimoto and Furnham, 1999) underwent a study to find out why patients turn to complementary therapies.

Various reasons were given but one particularly, “suggested a specific failure of orthodox medicine to provide them with relief. ” This is therefore evidence that the biomedical approach to illness is not entirely successful in the treatments it provides. A reason for this may be due to the fact that they only focus on treating the physical illness of the body. More relief can be found within complementary therapy, as it is not only the body, but also the mind that is examined, diagnosed and treated for an illness.

Complementary therapists believe that the mind may restrain the healing process as the patient may suffer from psychological problems. These problems within the mind must be treated as any physical illness would to help improve the patients’ health. As the use of complementary therapies has risen reasons have been given for this newfound popularity. These reasons including dissatisfaction with orthodox treatment and the G. P. and also the “emergence of a new set of health beliefs and values in society. O’Callaghan and Jordan (2003) recognise that, “this view contrasts with the biomedical approach of modern times, and reflects a sense of alienation from medical structures and authorities that have tended to govern the individual’s decision-making in relation to health. ”

Lewith and Chan (2002) state that, “Orthodox medicine is seen as more effective for major, life-threatening conditions”. It has been found by several researchers that patients are more likely to visit a general practitioner for ‘external intervention’, whilst “patients of the Complementary therapy group were more likely to have ‘external problems'”, or specific illnesses. Sugimoto and Furnham, 1999) However, patients with a serious illness may benefit much more through combining the two therapies.

Lewith and Chan (2002) provide an example when they mention a ‘combination of chemotherapy, along with massage and reflexology’, helping to keep the mind and spirit healthy as well as aiding in the bodies recovery. Many general practitioners are now suggesting that their patients consider “seeking complementary therapies, usually with conditions orthodox medicine has not been able to treat effectively”. Paterson, 2000) Paterson provides an example when discussing a patient who has been suffering from ‘stress incontinence’. She had already received two operations through orthodox treatment, both providing temporary relief. However, the most recent operation was unsuccessful, leaving the practitioner with no other alternative than to suggest acupuncture.

Goldstein (2003) describes the holistic therapy of acupuncture as a “complete medical system that is used to diagnose and treat illness, manage chronic disorders, alleviate pain, and promote health through prevention and maintenance. It is also stated that, “it can be used for physical, emotional, and psychological disorders”, therefore confirming the practice of acupuncture as a holistic therapy. It was successful in the healing of ‘stress incontinence’, as acupuncture consists of “twelve main energy channels running through the body which relate to the internal organs: lungs, large intestine, stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, bladder, kidney, triple warmer, gall bladder, liver, and gate of life”.

These energy channels are placed all over the body, and “by inserting a needle into an Acupuncture site, qi (energy which keeps a person healthy) will be altered”. The needle can be placed to increase energy or if too much energy is present, then it may be used as a release. The manipulation of the needle is important in aiding a patient to recover from illness, as “it is through the balancing of energy that a person’s health can be restored”. (Goldstein, 2003)

Paterson (2000) states that the acupuncture treatment left the patient ‘symptom free and very satisfied’, continuing by saying that this case “epitomises some of the benefits of orthodox/complementary integration because she would not have considered such treatment without my personal recommendation and encouragement”. Lewith and Chan’s study (2002) covers both the biomedical and holistic approach. When comparing the two approaches they state that, “conventional medicine typically treats disease as a breakdown in the human body that can be repaired by direct pharmacological or surgical intervention”.

They refer to the biomedical definition of health as the “absence of disease”. In comparison the Holistic therapies “emphasise the uniqueness of each individual and the integration of body, mind and spirit”. It has also been found that Complementary therapy patients are more aware of the “treatment options open to them and how they can best manage their illness”. The biomedical approach is restricted in its ability to diagnose and treat an illness. The body as a whole must be observed and treated, according to the holistic approach, but biomedicine does not conform to these beliefs.

Although the biomedical approach does only diagnose physical illnesses they are not exempt to accepting that a patient may need to be referred to complementary therapy as orthodox treatment has failed them. When applying the biomedical approach to holistic bodywork conflicts may occur due to the constraints of beliefs. The physiology and anatomy of the body can be successfully applied to holistic bodywork, providing therapists with an understanding of how the physicality’s of a person functions.

Through reference to the ‘structure and function of the body’, such as the anatomy, areas can be recognised where muscles are present. The knowledge of the body, such as muscular structure or the nervous system is essential within massage to ensure that the correct areas are targeted to enable the massage to help alleviate and “rid your body of those unwanted and painful knots that build up in the muscle tissue, especially in the back and shoulder areas”. Dao, J 2003) However, the physiology and anatomy are the only use of biomedicine in relation to holistic bodywork, as the treatments of orthodox medicine, such as drugs, surgery, etc, are not applied to this holistic healing process. Complementary therapies use treatments such as natural remedies, and unlike the biomedical model, believes in the “importance of involving the patient and appreciating their contribution to the healing process. ” (O’Callaghan and Jordan, 2003)

Overall, the two approaches may benefit from working alongside each other, especially as it is becoming increasingly more so that G. P’s are referring patients to complementary therapists. Unfortunately the two approaches remain divided until the biomedical approach accepts that for the body to be of good health, the mind, body and spirit must be treated for illness. Therefore when differentiating between the two approaches it is recognised that holism puts “an emphasis on care”. (O’Callaghan and Jordan) This being opposed to the biomedical approach of a “predominant focus on cure”, and so, distinguishing a division between the biomedical model and holistic bodywork.

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