Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Alternative medicine, healing - or scam?
I want to recount a sad experience I had on Sunday here in Bulgaria - near Veliko Trnovo. Since a hill walk in the Kyrgyz mountains in 2006 I have had weak (and occasionally painful) knees. The Magnetic Resonance machine (in Glasgow) couldn’t identify any physical deterioration – and left me to conclude that my condition was arthritic. I was therefore easy prey when a friend suggested I try some foot reflexology from a Bulgarian who had returned home after a successful practice in Italy. He took me in 2009 or so for my first (painful) hour’s treatment. It didn’t make any difference – but I was persuaded it needed a course of treatment. After all, when (some 25 years ago) no physical therapist could deal with a previous knee pain I had, it was (apparently) sorted out in a short session by a guy who just massaged it – all the while dangling a pendant like a metronome.
And last Thursday started – after a 3 hour journey from Sofia - what I thought would be such a course. An hour’s session cost me 50 levs – which I considered reasonable since a massage would have cost me about 60 (although leaving me more invigorated). I returned on Sunday for the second session – which was only 30 minutes (I had been made to wait an hour and needed to be back in Sofia by 16.00) – and was shocked to be asked for 50 euros – effectively 4 times the previous week’s rate (double the price for less than half the time). I was told two things – first that they had made a mistake the previous week, charging me the rate for Bulgarians (foreigners were 50 euros – Romanians too???). And, second, that what counted was not the length of the session (it’s not massage!) but the effectiveness. But I had no pain when I arrived – so lack of immediate pain (apart from the bones he had pressed) was no measure. I would be happy to pay by results – but that was never on offer! The “healer” (for that is the term I have discovered they use on the website which is still under construction) just decided to stop my treatment in order to give someone else treatment who was also in a hurry.
I confess I was a bit annoyed by the guy’s abruptness – and lack of interest in the information I tried to convey to him about a skin condition I have - and the small wooden roller he used was duly beginning to tear my skin
I had noticed some time ago that the Bulgarians have a great belief in spiritual energy - which does leave them vulnerable to people we northerners would regard as quacks. And last october the Bulgarian authorities were threatening to tighten up on "healers".
A Bulgarian reader who has received and seen Mitio's treatment has been in touch to argue Mitio's corner. He draws attention to the many people who have clearly benefited from the treatment. I am sure that his treatment has helped many people and admit that part of my concern is the language of "healing" since this, for me, is getting close to calling oneself a "miracle-worker" which my world-view has difficulty accepting. I readily accept that there are a lot of things man does not and probably never will explain with current methodologies. But would be more comfortable with the term "therapist" - and if he showed some humility about other (complementary) approaches. Clearly, for example, what one eats (and drinks) does affect one's body. Man ist was man isst! For example, a coupleof days later, I had a painful swelling in a big toe - and the blood test at the hosptital identified high uric acid. They immediately put me on a diet of no meat or wine (and lots of water) for 4 weeks - after which we will test again. And my body seem to appreciate the new diet!
And it is certainly a problem for me that (a) I don't know what technique he is using (is it reflexology?) and (b) that I don't get any feedback. I can share his view of the medical profession - but he equally needs to accept that people need information and feedback; and that his treatment may not necessarily be appropriate in all cases.