By: Leah Howard
Dr. Tidwell found other differences between patient populations. In her experience, American patients had a lower threshold for pain. She found that her patients in India, China, and Tibet have a higher tolerance for pain and discomfort because they accept that pain is part of treatment, and enduring pain can be a natural part of getting better. In contrast, Dr. Tidwell argues that in the United States pain is not well tolerated and oftentimes measures are used to prevent it, such as taking pain medications. This difference also emerges in the difference of patient expectations from a massage treatment. In Tibet and China, many expect the treatment to be rough or uncomfortable and if it is not the treatment is viewed as ineffective. In the United States, if the massage is painful, many believe that the treatment was properly administered. In general, Kunye, a Tibetan medical massage, is not uncomfortable but techniques are often applied more roughly on Tibetan and Chinese patients compared to Western patients. In addition, Dr. Tidwell observed that many Tibetan healers are surprised by the way that many Americans treat their gut. From a Tibetan medical perspective, Americans do not take care of their digestive system very well. For example, the practice putting ice in drinking water, eating raw vegetables, or eating cold food items, can hinder the digestive metabolic processes. When ingesting raw or cold foods, the body has to heat them up in order for proper digestion, and it uses a lot of energy that can be otherwise used for accessing nutrient contents amongst other important digestive functions. Dr. Tidwell reports that when patients switch from a traditional American diet to one more adapted to their individual constitution, they report feeling much better overall.
Dr. Tidwell's efforts to bring the expertise of Tibetan medicine to think about Western medical practices are enlightening and holistic. We hope to learn more about her work in the future.