Analytical versus Poetic Medicine
Both Western and Eastern medicine have their own frameworks for explaining illness and pathogenesis. Due to this fundamental difference, it is borderline impossible to explain one medicine’s theories using the others framework. If though, you gain an understanding of the key differences in principles and perception, understanding each medicine’s viewpoint becomes much easier.
To Western Medicine, understanding illness means finding a single distinct entity which is separate from the patient’s being; In Chinese Medicine, understanding means witnessing the relationships between all the patient’s signs and symptoms in the context of their life. Let me explain what that text book example means:
In simplest terms, The western view is about “What X is causing Y?”, whereas in Chinese Medicine the importance is on “What is the relationship between X and Y?”
Western Medicine is far more analytical and clinical in its approach looking for a singular causative factor, where as Chinese Medicine works to paint a more poetic description of the person as a whole. Both approaches achieve the same goal, providing the practitioner with a framework for treatment. Western medicine works on finding, isolating and either controlling or destroying the entity. Chinese medicine views it as a “Pattern of Disharmony”, whereby the individual needs to be returned to a state of balance.
This difference in approach shows in many studies performed in China, where for example, 6 patients are all be diagnosed with “stomach ulcers” by western physicians. The Chinese Medicine doctors however see 6 different patterns of disharmony, as each individual always paints a different picture. As a result, in Biomedicine all 6 patients receive the same treatment, whereas in Chinese Medicine, each patient receives a slightly different treatment to match their individual presentation.