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Merging traditional healing practise with modern medicine

St. Luke’s Medical Center Complementary Medicine Service head Dr. Francisco “Kit” Navarro and SLMC SVP for medical affairs and chief medical officer Dr. Joven R. Cuanang

MANILA, Philippines - One of the most popular stories about traditional medicine is how the Bian Que, a famous physician in China’s Zhou Dynasty (256-1046) managed to heal the crown prince of Guo. Using acupuncture as a method of treatment, the ancient physician was able to wake a comatose prince and restore him to good health.

Currently, a growing body of scientific evidence is proving that the benefits of traditional medicine are not merely the stuff of legend. Numerous studies, in fact, have shown that the treatment of disease through acupuncture and other traditional treatments have physiological basis.  In other words, the ancient practitioners of Oriental medicine were right: that excessive emotional stress can cause functional disturbances. As a means of relaxation or stress relief, scientific data is bolstering the claim that traditional medicine has the potential to ward off and even cure disease.

How is this possible? In the specific case of hypertension, for example, modern scientists using highly-powered electron microscopes proved that emotional tension affects nerve endings in the kidneys. This, in turn, leads to an alteration in the levels of renin and angiotensin. Since these are the hormones that regulate blood pressure and water balance, it is easy to understand how treatments that promote relaxation are beneficial in controlling hypertension.

More and more, science is proving that traditional medicine in conjunction with modern treatments has beneficial effects in the prevention and cure of a variety of diseases. This field that offers medical therapies from traditional systems of medicine is called “Complementary Medicine.”    

Myotherapy clinic Photos by Joven Cagande

 The good news is that St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City (SLMC), a premier healthcare institution in the Philippines recently launched its Complementary Medicine Service (CMS). Spearheaded by Dr. Joven Cuanang SLMC’s Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer, the service is envisioned to employ traditional therapies that are accepted as beneficial to health.

“We realize the value of ancient studies of medicine complementary with Western medicine to come up with programs of healing that are unique,” says Dr. Cuanang. “We derive what we incorporate into complementary medicine by the product of its positive effect as proven by Western research.”  The CMS unit is headed by Dr. Francisco V. Navarro, an alumnus of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine who trained in traditional medicine at Xiamen University Hospital, Fujian Province, China; and at the Academy of Pain Research in St. Luke’s Hospital San Francisco, under the Stanford Medical School.

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 “The difference here is that we will offer medical therapies from traditional systems of medicine that are globally accepted, scientifically proven and medically supervised or supervised by medical professionals,” says Dr. Navarro. “The rule of thumb in traditional medicine is that you have to know the limitations. This is in the same way as any good medicine has its limits.”

 He explains that programs for treatment at the CMS are highly individualized, taking into account an individual’s underlying health and medical conditions that may require certain limitations. Initially, the CMS include will offer three types of treatment derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurdveda or traditional Indian medicine, and other medical traditions of Asia.

Dr. Jake Aniban with Ambeth Ocampo, SLMC Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation head Dr.Rey Matias, Dr.Kit Navarro, SLMC Board of Trustees chairman Robert Kuan, Avril Rodriguez, Dr. Joven R. Cuanang and Miguel del Prado

  Specifically, the center will offer acupuncture and its related therapies of Chinese Medicine such as ventosa or the application of cups on the body by creating a negative-pressure vacuum to make the cups suck on to the skin; and moxabustion or a traditional heat therapy treatment where the dried moxa herb is ignited and burned close to the skin, on acupuncture points.

 In addition, there is yoga which Dr. Navarro describes as a “multi-faceted and holistic system of health” which involves breathing techniques, and mental and physical relaxation apart from the commonly known asanas or postures.

Finally, there is massage therapy. These include therapeutic massages like myotherapy, Dorn method (a manual, holistic therapy to correct misalignments in the spinal cord and other joints,) trigger point therapy (with attention to muscle knots,) and acupressure. Interestingly, one massage program being conducted with SLMC’s Pain Management Center is reflexology for pain relief.

The best part about the SLMC’s Complementary Medical Service is that you can avail of its services even when you are suffering from a medical condition. Treatments are affordable, and it is easy to forget that you are in a hospital at the tastefully furnished facility.  We agree with Mr. Robert Kuan, SLMC’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees who said at the short program to inaugurate the CMs unit, “The hospital is not just a place to go when you are sick; it should be a place to enhance wellness.”

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Marilou Diaz-Abaya and Dr. Ellen Palanca of Ateneo De Manila University

 Regular clinic hours from Monday to Saturday are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Yoga classes (at P500/session or P4000/10 sessions) are: Monday & Wednesday at 3, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.; and Friday at 3 p.m. at St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City.

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