Shin Tries to Take Oriental Medicine Mainstream
Oriental Medicine had long been considered an ``alternative'' measure in the battle against disease. But it is slowly earning a reputation as an effective treatment, thanks to many doctors trying to define the mechanism in a more ``scientific way.''
Dr. Shin Joon-shik, president of the Jaseng Hospital Oriental Medicine foundation, is one of the main contributors. He amazes thousands of people a year by treating spinal problems without surgery. ``It was first perceived as fantasy, but international medicine has started to acknowledge us,'' he said.
Discs lie between adjacent vertebrae in the spine and are formed of ``jellylike'' joints and fibers to allow movement of the vertebrae. They work as a ligament to hold the vertebrae together.
Problems arise when the discs twisted, decay or malfunction in some other way.
``Unlike animals that carry their weight on four legs, humans only have two. The spine is S-shaped in its entirety and has to carry the weight all by itself ― which means more back problems,'' Shin said.
If people have difficulty bending their torso or sitting in a chair, feel comfortable only when lying down, can't raise their legs vertically straight while laying down, can't lift heavy items, or have back pain after strenuous activity, then they should consult a doctor.
Caucasians, whose bone structure is generally larger than that of Koreans, are more likely to suffer from such issues.
While surgery is recommended to most of the patients ― whether minimally invasive or not ― Shin believes that massaging and medication could be the answer.
``The portion of surgery in disc disorder here is about three times that in the U.S. However, nothing is better than your own spine. It should be preserved,'' he said.
For the first step, he prescribes ``jeongpajeon,'' an oriental medicine that eases possible inflammation and swollen organs. He also prescribes ``yangguentang'' and ``bojonhwan'' pills to strengthen ligaments and allow them to bear weight again.
Shin believes the medication needs to continue for more than three months.
Then, acupuncture steps up to pinch and stimulate the right muscles. He sometimes uses bee stingers as needles.
The most distinctive treatment may be ``Chuna Therapy,'' which is a manual treatment method that directly manipulates crooked or misaligned joints and hard, knotted muscles. Shin explains that the therapy relieves pain by encouraging normal circulation ― getting rid of ``ulchae,'' or ``blocked'' blood.
Shin said the force that the oriental doctors apply through hands-on technique is what creates the therapeutic effect to fix joints, bones or other particular areas. ``When the manipulation techniques are conducted, they are converted into a dynamic energy wave which penetrates the innermost parts of the body and effectively adjusts related systems and organs,'' he said.
The combination of the three-step techniques ― medication, acupuncture and Chuna ― means that more than 85 percent of patients feel relief from their spinal problems, Shin said.
``Apart from total paralysis of the legs, or spinal nerve damage which is too severe to prevent the passage of waste, most disorders can be treated without surgery,'' he said. He noted that Chuna was the first Oriental medical theory in the field of neurology to be chosen as an elective course at the UC Irvine Medical School in the U.S. Its clinical research results were exchanged with Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center.
Shin's research team also collaborated with others to develop ``chinbarometin,'' which controls inflammation, and assists in bone and nerve regeneration. He has one patent for the substance in Korea and America. Green Cross is now developing it as a natural pharmaceutical.
Shin said it is time Western and Oriental medicine supported each other.
``Western medicine is evidence-based and its diagnosis of a disease is made after looking through various state-of-the-art facilities' test results.
``However, Oriental medicine is focused on balancing energy in the body,'' he said.
``Western medicine gives antibiotic or anti-inflammatory drugs to people with a high fever to bring down the body temperature. We let people sweat a lot to let the bad energy out. After suffering from cold for a while, people get better soon,'' he said.
His hospitals are equipped with some of the most state-of-the-art Western examination devices, such as MRI and CT scanners and others. ``I truly believe the two can work together,'' he said. ``Western medicine can provide the diagnosis and external treatment while Oriental can take over overall care and prevention'' he said.
Shin predicts that there will be more space for collaboration between the two, both in and outside Korea. Jaseng has already conducted various studies and projects with hospitals in Germany, Hungary and Dubai among others.
He said he is looking for aspiring Oriental medical doctors who have the ``guts'' to perform treatment and research in and outside Korea. ``English proficiency is necessary and we want more people with Arabic language ability,'' he said. ``I see Oriental medicine's future extending there,'' he said.