Western medicine is the term used to describe the treatment of medical conditions with medications, by doctors, nurses and other conventional healthcare providers who employ methods developed according to Western medical and scientific traditions. Other names for Western medicine include traditional medicine or allopathic medicine. It differs from Eastern, or alternative, medicine, in its approach to treatment, which relies heavily upon industrially produced medications and a strict adherence to the formal scientific process.
Western medicine encompasses all types of conventional medical treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and physical therapy. The practitioners of Western medicine are doctors, nurses, physical, occupational, and respiratory therapists. Generally, anyone visiting a doctor's office or hospital will receive allopathic treatment.
The main benefit of traditional medicine is that the work of allopathic practitioners is subject to rigorous safety and effectiveness protocols. Treatments and medications pass a strict review before a patient can receive them. While some Eastern medicine treatments have been the subject of clinical trials and long-term studies, they are in the minority.
Western medicine has a long history of safety to back up various treatment protocols. Before a new treatment or drug is approved for use on the public, it goes through an extensive testing process, first in the laboratory, and then through several layers of patient testing. Some people become frustrated with Western medicine because the approval process for new treatments is so lengthy. For people with concerns about the type of treatment they are receiving for a particular condition, there is no reason to abandon conventional medicine. Clinical trials allow many patients to take advantage of new treatment protocols before they receive official approval.
The guidelines for participating in clinical trials are very strict, and many will not accept patients who have received alternative medicines, due to concerns that it will skew the results of the trial. Teaching and research hospitals typically house most clinical trials, so living within commuting distance of one of these establishments increases the odds of participation. If you believe that you would benefit from a clinical trial, ask your physician for a recommendation.
Western medicine practitioners are generally willing to work with other allopathic practitioners to devise the best course of care for a particular injury or illness. One patient may have a primary care physician, a surgeon, a physical therapist, and an occupational therapist. They will share information with each other to help improve the prognosis, and reduce the potential downtime for each patient. Some of these practitioners may also be willing to work with practitioners of alternative, and Eastern medicine, though this is less common.
Consider a visit to a Western trained physician for any condition that is serious or invasive. The decision to treat a serious medical condition with alternative medicine is not a decision to make lightly. Instead, talk to a traditional doctor about any concerns about a specific treatment, and seek second opinions whenever possible.