Studies in the Osteopathic
Basic Principles: Volume
Louisa Burns, M.S., D.O., D.Sc.O.
IRRITIONAL THERAPEUTICS MAY PERPETUATE DISEASE.
Reasons for Meddling of Nurses.
In the presence of suffering, it is a basic principle in human nature to
desire urgently to do something to relieve the pain. This desire
is based upon the physiology of the neurons of the basal ganglia.
The incoming impulse which affects the basal ganglia in any way,--that
is, which arouses any feelings or emotions,--at once seeks expression.
It is the function of these collections of nerve cells to coordinate immediately
the movements concerned in emotional reactions; so, when the feelings are
aroused by anything, the tendency is toward immediate expression.
Now, when some member of the family is sick, the others, being grieved
and sorry for the suffering, are placed in a condition of a certain temptation.
They urgently desire to do something of advantage to the sick person, but
even stronger than this most admirable endeavor is the unrecognized longing
to do something to satisfy one’s own feelings.
desire is manifest, all unconsciously to themselves, in those who, in spite
of their own evident lack of ability, insist upon nursing sick people themselves.
Other fond relatives awaken the sick person ”just to see if he is still
able to know me.” At root, this impulse toward helpfulness is one
of the most praise-worthy of traits. It is praise-worthy because
it makes for the persistence of the altruistic spirit, which secures the
finest development of the race.
the spirit of service, thus exemplified, fail in its endeavor, then it
becomes rather a hindrance to progress in any proper sense. The poorly
advised and fussy efforts of those who, not being guided by any more rational
considerations than feelings, persist in satisfying themselves by performing
unwelcome services and meddling with the natural progress of the disease
toward recovery, are responsible for many long and weary days of hindered
convalescence, and only too often for a shortened life. Doctors of
every school recognize this mental condition of the patient’s friends,
and many are the placebos which are prescribed to the patient more for
the sake of the officious friends than for the sake of the sufferer.
whole tendency of the medical instruction given non-professional people
in the past has been toward the maintenance of dense and hopeless ignorance
concerning every function of the human frame. Partly because of this
ignorance, with its related half-superstitious trust in the doctor because
of his M. D., not because of his knowledge, partly because of a sort of
undying faith in the ultimate total depravity of disease in all of its
manifestations, and mostly because of this innate and irrational endeavor
to do something, no matter what, the habit of meddlesomeness has become
very firmly fixed in everybody’s ideas of propriety in the sick room.
It is a foolish notion, but it cannot be at once eradicated from the minds
of ignorant people, at any rate. The final elimination of the old
priest idea in relation to the doctor’s knowledge and powers, the education
of the people until they are ready to believe that the laws of the universe
are not set aside within their own bodies, and the wider recognition of
the fundamental truths of biology and physiology will prepare the way for
a rational habit of dealing with the sick,--a habit of considering no other
factor than the good of the patient.
Irrational Therapeutics Are Harmful.
measures which are based upon the necessity for satisfying the desires
of the patient and his friends that “all that can be done is being done”
can never be truly rational. Such methods as are not absolutely indicated
therapeutic measures injure the patient in three ways:--even if they be
harmless in themselves they prevent the determination of the methods indicated,
they are the occasion of considerable disturbance to the patient, who perhaps
needs rest and quiet, and, more frequently, they are themselves a source
of further malfunction.
The Harm of “Harmless Remedies.”
find great difficulty, sometimes, in dealing with the kind and officious
friends who have something “so simple, it could not possibly do any harm.”
It is needless to say that there is no power efficient for good which is
not capable of harm if unwisely employed.
one considers thoughtfully the therapeutic methods which are now discarded,
and thinks of the number of lives which were shortened through bleeding,
the over-feeding of typhoid patients, the denial of drink to the feverish,
and all the list of the absurdities which are now left behind as barbarisms,
he should find the lesson which is so often disregarded, that one should
be rather sure that his measures are those adapted to the very condition
of the very patient before he engages in any marked interference with the
progress of the body itself in its efforts to accommodate itself to the
far the larger number of cases which come to the osteopath present symptoms
which are only in part due to the original cause of the malfunction; often
the most severe and dangerous of his symptoms are the effects of the therapeutic
methods which have been unwisely employed. A few cases, which probably
duplicate others in the knowledge of most observant persons, may be cited
in illustration of these points.
Examples of Irrational Methods.
patient, always well, with an unfailing appetite and a habit of eating
heartily three times every day, goes into a business which is rather confining.
He keeps on eating as usual. One day he is more weary than usual,
or he is worried about something. He eats some unusual dish, or perhaps
more heartily than he is accustomed. He does not sleep very well,
and suffers from nausea and headache. There is some diarrhoea.
He uses the ordinary “harmless” remedies for the diarrhoea. It stops
suddenly. He eats rather heartily, from habit, though he is not hungry.
He becomes feverish during the day, and takes some more “harmless” medicine,
-- purgatives, this time. He feels better, the next day, and eats
enough to make up the time he did not lose while he felt poorly.
He finds himself in need of purgative medicines very often, thereafter.
The enema is suggested as being a “harmless” method of dealing with such
troubles. He uses enemata and rectal dilators until the rectum
has lost its normal tone. In the meantime, he has consulted all his
friends, because he “does not like doctors.”
accordance with their advice, he tries a fast, tries full feeding, tries
smoking, quits smoking for a week or two, takes all sorts of patent medicines,
and finally goes to a doctor. Here he repeats, in slightly different
manner, the history already given. He goes to other doctors, some
of them rational, but he expects hasty cure, so loses confidence in a short
time. His original indisposition was a very simple affair; if he
had remained quiet for a little time, with no food, during the time of
his nausea, perhaps there would have been no trouble afterwards.
But the therapeutics were his undoing.
case of accident, a slight wound is often irritated by the use of antiseptics
of too great strength, and it is daubed with lotions or salves of reputed
“healing” power, until the marvel is that healing ever does occur.
Among ignorant people, salves are not infrequently kept in open jars, or
perhaps with loosely fitting lids from month to month, and these are opened
freely in the presence of any sort of infection. It seems almost
impossible to persuade people that there is no such thing in all nature
as a “healing power” in anything except the tissue which has been injured,
and its neighboring fluids and tissues, and that the “healing power” of
the injured tissue itself surpasses all that has been ascribed to any external
Education Eliminates Irrational Therapeutics.
is the province of the doctors of this new time to begin to educate the
people along the lines of common sense in their dealings with themselves.
The process must be very slow, for the teaching of ages is not lightly
set aside. The old type of doctor still maintains an attitude of
pretension to something more than ordinary powers. It is perhaps
more than half unconsciously maintained, as the result of the effect upon
himself of the medical traditions. There are persons who honestly
doubt the wisdom of giving a broader knowledge of physiological matters
to non-professional people, because of the unwise instruction which has
been given in times past. Education must proceed slowly, for many
reasons. Sensible, intelligent people may be shown the reason for
the methods of treatment described. They wrong their patients who
give unrelated facts of pathology and disease symptoms, in their unattractive
aspects, to people who know nothing of the wonderful and beautiful relations
reason for the simpler phenomena of everyday experience, the reason for
the instruction which is given in hygienic matters, the reason for cleanliness
in the care of wounds, and, above all, the fact that health and sanity
and power in life are not the result of mere whimsical chance, but that
these things are the inevitable result of the normal body, well treated,
and in its proper place in the midst of things, these things all people
things might be understood by non-professional people, there would be less of
carelessness among doctors, less of meddlesome fussiness among the friends of
a patient, and the periods of convalescence would be quiet, restful, pleasant
times of daily renewing strength.