SphygmomanometerMy kids are proud that their great-great-great uncle (on my wife’s side) was a physician and professor who helped invent the sphygmomanometer, also known as the uncomfortable blood pressure cuff that you experience when you go to your doctor’s office for a check up.  This relative was one of the many physicians and scientists who added to the allopathic toolkit of diagnoses and treatment.  He was able to quantify blood pressure in a numeric way that was different than was previously possible.

Without the manufactured tools that spit out the numbers that we rely on to describe the state of a patient in modern, allopathic medicine (e.g. thermometer, blood tests, urine tests, oxygen sensors, EKG’s, etc.), I assume that healers in the preceding millennia relied more heavily on their five senses.  Did they use their sense of touch to feel the patient’s skin for warmth, sweat, pulse, swelling, rash, strength, etc.?  Did they use their sense of smell to assess the patient’s breath, skin, hair, excretions for malodor?  Did they taste the skin for saltiness or the urine for infection or metabolic imbalance?  Did they use their ears to listen to the heartbeat, the breath, and the words of the patient?  Did they rely most heavily on their eyes to see what was visible on the outside of the patient?  Did they use their mental, psychological, intuitive skills to assess the parts of the patients that they couldn’t see, taste, hear, touch, or smell?

Healers also had to think about the body as a whole and observe what food, plants, environments, and experiences influenced people’s health.  What early signs of illness would later manifest in other symptoms?  How is the body interconnected? Effective healers had to use their senses to observe the whole body system and the way that the body is affected by the environment.  These are the skills that we physicians need to reclaim (well, not the taste and smell parts) and use in addition to the brilliant quantitative tools that have been invented in the past couple of centuries, such as the sphygmomanometer.