Not Every Skinned Knee Requires an MRI

The staggering costs of health care which continue to rise unchecked are quickly bankrupting the system one family at a time. Every 30 seconds another personal bankruptcy is filed in the wake of a health care crisis. I and many many like me are aware, keenly aware, that higher costs do not equate to better medicine. To serve as an anecdote it has been over 10 years since my cat was diagnosed with a heart murmur. That was the last time he saw a vet. He’s fine. He’s 15 and going strong. Other cats and dogs I’ve known have come and gone in that time racking up vet bills left and right, being constantly sick and dying in the process. Not Scrapper.

Being on more medications and having more surgeries is not a sign of health. The current system over medicates and over diagnoses and it does so unchecked because insurance seems happy to pay for an MRI every time you skin your knee but refuses to pay for true preventative care such as organic foods and yoga classes.

Something as simple as folic acid to a pregnant mother reduces the number of birth defects significantly. We do that as a matter of course and this is a good thing and it saves astronomical bills. How about vitamins, medicinal herbs, Integrative Care and a focus on empowering the patient to take more control of their own health?

The #1 problem with the current system are the staggering costs which continue to rise exponentially. Between 1950 and today the cost of the average good or service has increased 8 fold. Medical care is up almost 300 fold. And people are not getting healthier, just broker.

In the words of Deep Throat of the Watergate days we need to “follow the money,” right from your pocket into the lavish world of the CEO’s of Pharmaceutical Companies and Insurance Companies and into all that super impressive, super expensive technology that goes beep-beep-beep and spits a prescription out at the other end. People lived long and healthy lives without these machines for about 40,000 years now. All of a sudden a fetus cannot gestate without being hooked up to all sorts of devices that drive up costs and rarely if ever create more healthy children.

Oxygen, work, play laughter, love, clean drinking water free of pesticides and fluoride, crops grown the way God intended, freedom from dozens of vaccines linked to autism due to the mercury that the FDA says they can’t do without, freedom from addictive psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin etc etc all go a lot farther toward creating healthy children than the inverse. That would not, however, be good for business.
It is only since the Nixon Administration that the concept of “for profit” medicine was even considered. Only since Reagan has it been full speed ahead. Only now are we beginning to see the damage. Patients are not happy. Doctors are not happy. Children are fat and lazy and addicted to Schedule 2 drugs such as Ritalin. I could go on and on with the disaster that is the current medical system. 20% of the population is uninsured. The cost to a family of 4 for health insurance is equal to the salary of a full time minimum wage worker. We are not healthier, happier or holier and the only ones benefitting are the lawmakers and big Pharma execs. That is capitalism applied to health care.

Capitalism is unsustainable and coming to the end of its rope. The same goes for this health care, or better stated “disease management” system. I mean really if it was a health care system wouldn’t your doctor know about nutrition, vitamins and Tai Chi? Wouldn’t there be at least one option for non invasive low cost techniques such as Acupuncture in his arsenal? Why do the people in China live so much longer and enjoy so much better health into their 90’s and 100’s? It certainly is not the great wealth of the people but perhaps the simple and wise diet and the daily Tai Chi as well as regular Acupuncture and reliance on herbs as a staple.

And while we can turn those people into smokers, McDonald’s eaters and Coke drinkers with our predatory corporate pirateering we cannot infiltrate their medical system. Do they know something we don’t? Or do we know and refuse to accept?

Should we not be considering the simple wisdom that our bodies know what is best for us? Again, we formed perfectly from two simple cells and the freedom to be left alone for 9 months. What are the chances that this wisdom does not stop once we hit the birth canal? How exactly is it that those folks in the white coats are the only ones who know how to heal us? And so why can’t they fucking do it??? Why is everyone walking around with a pharmacy of prescriptions in their pocket? How exactly did people live and thrive for so long (40,000) years at least without all these damn drugs and machines that account for almost $3 TRILLION per year? Why are the people that see the doctor the most, the sickest?

Maybe instead of relying on Insurance Execs and the CEO of Pfizer to shape public policy we should try the Dalai Lama, Tich Nicht Hanh. Kriyananda and the millions of other octogenarians that haven’t seen a doctor for decades. What if we looked into the simpler and wiser approaches to stewardship of the land and stewardship of our bodies. What if we stopped pushing ourselves to exhaustion and revving up with caffeine and other stimulants just to wind down with alcohol so that we can “get the most out of life?”

Getting the most out of life means loving every moment of it. When I love what I’m doing I don’t need stimulants to keep me going (and I have the freedom to take a nap), and I sure don’t need strong liquor to blot out my day. I am able to exercise regularly and eat well. That does not mean shoveling cold gruel into my mouth as fast as possible to get back to shoveling coal for the devil.

Why, if this is such a great country and if capitalism brings such good things to life are upwards of 30 million people on antidepressants? Why are so many more self-medicating by sitting in front of the TV with a shot and a beer? These are valid questions and the only valid answer I can see is that they feel as though their life sucks and there is no way out. Perhaps the decisions they have made based on greed, the number of ways they sell out every day , or the number of times they wave their hand and say “that’s just the way it is. Whaddaya gonna do about it?” actually gets to them and they feel their own impotence, irrelevance and mortality.

The root of the problem is the alienation we feel from society, ourselves and even the utter powerlessness over our own health. What a depressing scenario! Whaddaya gonna do? I say take back some control. Stop running to the doctor for antibiotics every time you get a sniffle. Replace smoking with breathing and booze with Tai Chi. Try substituting organic vegetables for potato chips drenched in lard and more organic vegetables for dead carcasses of animals injected with steroids and antibiotics and fried in lard.

Taken to the extreme, and only to those who are truly free, try replacing health insurance with vitamins and conspicuous items of consumption with a day off. Why exactly are you working your life away to accumulate more shit than you’ll ever need and send your kids to overpriced schools so they can learn to pile more shit on top of that while 24,000 people will die of starvation TODAY??? Not because they are stupid heathens but because capitalism has cut them off from their basic resources such as water and land. If you don’t believe me you are uninformed.

Why is there no moral outrage over babies never getting a clean drink of water and dying of dysentery before their first birthday and yet incredible outrage over birth control in Africa? Sometimes, I swear to God, I look at the human race and say “you deserve your fate!” If 95% of you will really just sit back and watch 5% take all the resources and write all the laws, you deserve your fate! If you really cannot find the time and energy to stay healthy and well but will, I promise, find the time and energy to be sick you deserve your fate. If you are running yourself ragged doing work that is killing you to afford health insurance for medicine that doesn’t make you better, just more dependent and then the insurance refuses to pay and you cry cause there’s nothing you can do I say you should have appreciated and kept healthy the gifts that God gave you instead of believing in and sacrificing your soul to this corporate Leviathan. And I say to you, here and now, it is not to late! Now is the time!

Health care is so expensive because we do not concern ourselves with the prevention of disease and preservation of health. Instead we concern ourselves with high cost, highly mechanized intervention in diseases that could have been prevented. Remember an ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure!

According to the Congressional Budget Office 50% of the recent escalation of health care costs are the result of new technology. This includes new pharmaceuticals that very often are no better (though 100X more expensive and therefore 1000X more likely to be prescribed) than older drugs used for the same purpose. Moreover, they often if not always carry far more dangerous “side effects”. Out of curiosity why is the term “side” effect employed? Isn’t it an “effect” 1000 suicides per year are directly attributable to anti depressant medication. But that’s just a “side” effect.

Do you know the side effects of yoga? A more centered attitude (less depression). Physical toning, weight loss, better breathing and therefore better blood flow. Lowered blood pressure, better elimination, healthier complexion, reduced stress, greater resistance to injury and illness etc etc. Now if only we could make a drug that did that I suppose the Rockefeller Foundation might show interest. In the meantime lets just hope that Monsanto doesn’t try to pass a law against it.

If its really a healthcare system wouldn’t there be at least one machine that did all this??? But no we have plenty of machines at $3000 a pop that can tell you just exactly how sick you are and then a bunch of drugs to handle your blood pressure and more for the constipation and impotence that results and more for the depression that comes from not getting a hard on and then more from all the weight you gain and then more for your diabetes which results from the weight gain and THEN they will tell you to stop drinking, smoking and maybe take up moderate exercise. And for this you spend $7000 per year or more. And for this I say perhaps your fate is somewhat self inflicted.

Do you know that in the office of doctors that OWN certain scanners and other machines the frequency of those procedures is more than 3.2X greater than in the offices of doctors who do not? Does this surprise you? When health care is considered an industry of profit you become a commodity. If this does not sit well with you I highly suggest you look into the alternatives. They are myriad. They are simple. And they are relatively low cost. And they are scorned, ridiculed, undermined and attacked daily by conventional medicine and Big Pharma.

Acupuncture, for instance, is not a novel new fad that you try for back pain after all else has failed. It is a way of life that has existed for 8,000 years that includes (here we go again) diet, exercise, rest, regular treatment, healthy state of mind (not constant stress and greed promised by capitalism) and the innate understanding of the wisdom of nature and our own body. The more you commit to this lifestyle the greater the rewards and benefits, including a love for simplicity that starts to mean you don’t need to work as hard just to acquire the latest gadget to impress some other yuppie who is as fucking miserable as you. Strong words I know. I speak from experience. I will take a moonlit night on a balmy beach with a beautiful woman over a 60 hour workweek and an overpriced condo with an overpriced car any day of any week at any time in history. If it means I don’t have the latest version of capdambler or schmendler well I reckon I’ll just have to make due. If you you see the wisdom in this then begin, now, one step at a time to integrate it into your life. If not maybe you should try Ritalin LOL. No, not even you deserve that fate, and certainly not your children.

In the words of Dr Weil, “the time has come for a new paradigm of preventative medicine and a society wide effort to educate our citizens about health and self care.”

It needs to become a matter of policy that healthy choices are rewarded and unwise choices taxed. Smokers should bear a large portion of the burden. If the cost of tobacco products gets too high perhaps they can quit. At the same time incentives need to be in place for those who live a more healthy lifestyle. Like that Geico commercial: “Nonsmoker: discount. Not overweight: discount. Moderate exercise: discount and so on.”

Physicians need to seek the lowest cost and least intrusive treatment strategy first. Not every skinned knee requires an MRI. Bypass surgery is not the first line of defense in coronary disease. And not every patient who walks into the office a bit downcast and crestfallen requires Zoloft. Nor does every 6 year old boy who gets bored in school need Ritalin. Maybe he needs to practice Martial Arts which will teach him to focus and work all that built up energy out of him in a positive way. Frankly that would be a good prescription for every one of these cases. The guy with the skinned knee would learn to stop being such a pussy. The heart condition would very likely moderate and even reverse itself, though this requires regular monitoring as it may indeed be life threatening. And depression too would yield to the large number of endorphins and serotonin released as well as the sense of accomplishment and the good feeling that comes when life has a greater purpose.

I personally go to Western doctors as a last resort and I don’t resort to it too often. Exercise, Acupuncture, home remedies medicinal and culinary herbs, plenty of rest and good food and I’m feeling pretty good most of the time. If I want to feel better there is a glass of wine and certain sacred herbs that have been known for millenniums to enlighten the mind and soothe the soul. My health, by my professional opinion ranges from average on a bad day to superior the rest of the time. There is no reason that the majority of people could not be in the same position if they would simply adopt a few really quite pleasant changes in their lifestyles and attitudes.

This is what I try to teach my patients and clients and my hands on empathetic method of treatment added into this regimen very often is successful in replacing the high tech high cost approach of drugs surgery and more drugs. The key is Integrative Medicine which pulls from the combined wisdom of every paradigm and discipline to form a team where the total health of the patient, physical, emotional and spiritual is the # 1 priority.

Doesn’t it just make sense that you could visit a clinic and on staff would be a Western Physician, chiropractor, massage therapist, Acupuncturist, herbalist Yoga/Tai Chi Instructor, psychologist and perhaps even a shaman. Depending upon the need of the individual patient a treatment strategy can be devised specifically for him/her with a number of different people overseeing the case. Not everything requires pills and cutting and you would be absolutely amazed at the number of ailments that respond to Acupuncture and/or changes in diet.

In such a setting one would have access to all fields of medicine and have the absolute luxury of going with the least intrusive and least expensive treatment first. I suspect the percentage of cases that never had to go beyond Acupuncture diet changes and taking up walking on a daily basis would be quite high. I guarantee that this would bring medical costs down beyond dramatically. For the price of one surgery you could probably see an Acupuncturist every day for the rest of your life. And you probably wouldn’t need that surgery after all. Nor would you need to see me every day for the rest of your life so multiply that by a million cases a year and reduce the obscene profits of insurance companies and big pharma down to something more in line with an equitable world and an efficient health care system.


About Dean Scarpinato

As a guitarist, artist and poet, heavily inspired by the transcendentalists such as Jerry Garcia, I bring a sense of the dance into my acupuncture/massage treatments. The last thing a healing modality such as this should be is rigid and augmented. The key word is harmony and that is what we should be aiming for always. The treatment of an acupuncturist should, in my estimation, simply be pointing the way. In a drumming/healing seminar I attended in 2000 with Mickey Hart I remember him saying “Never let go of the groove. Always stay in the groove.” That is in essence what the Tao Te Ching means when it says “My greatest wealth is my connection to Tao. My greatest sorrow is in losing that connection.” I recognize that most folks may not understand this. And I am perfectly capable of working and relating right here on the material plane. Still, I am aware of a far greater reality where the transitory affairs of the material world are non-existent and mundane. From this perspective real healing truly takes place, or begins to. It depends on our own ability to drop the layers of ego and get to what’s real. It’s not the path for everyone. I rarely even mention it when I treat a cop for a sprained lumbar or a woman for infertility. It does not need to be said. There is an element of this treatment that is conscious altering in a way that philosophy cannot approach. See me enough and the hard edges start to wear thin on their own. But given the opportunity, I love to work with the artist, the dancer, the athlete, that seeks peak performance and knows what it means to be ”in the zone.” I can give that added edge of performance or creativity simply in terms of the clarity of mind and extended range of motion. Harmony of mind and body becomes reality and the more work you have done in that direction before you come to me, the greater the synergy that our work together can achieve. If this speaks to you in any way, contact me.
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