Conventional, “modern”, medicine has a tendency to kill or stifle the messenger. In comparison, the foundations of traditional, holistic and naturopathic medicine are to take a step back, listen and then interpret the message. The messenger is typically voicing one or more of the following symptoms in response to inflammation or trauma: pain, swelling, fever or redness. These four messengers date back to the time of Hippocrates as the Greek quatrad of dolor, tumor, calor and rubor.
- PAIN (dolor) is a sign of trauma, metabolic accumulation or lack of blood and oxygen flow to an area.
- SWELLING (tumor) is a natural response to trauma (splinting via swelling) or inflammation/infection. It is produced by the chemical action (chemotaxis) of our immune system allowing fluid and white blood cells out of the vessels and into the area of concern.
- TEMPERATURE (calor) is created by immune chemicals to enhance white blood cell activity
- REDNESS (rubor) is a sign of these chemical actions as the enhanced spread of immune activity creates a reddening change in the surface appearance.
These processes are all needed for the body to completely resolve infection, inflammation or trauma. Pain needs to be tolerable, swelling needs to be addressed and resolved, fevers need to be observed and cause investigated, but not removed and the redness needs to be identified, understood and resolved with something other than a potent immune suppressant or anti-inflammatory. Animal studies have shown that the use of fever reduction in intentionally infected animals results in significant worsening of morbidity and mortality (sickness and death).
Most people are more interested in removing discomforts than understanding the message. The conventional system of care is geared toward analgesics to control pain, anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling, possibly antihistamines as well, antipyretics to reduce fevers and topical agents to reduce the rash and redness at the site. It is certainly important to reduce pain, but it is equally important to listen more deeply, reflect more comprehensively and seek cause not relief.
One of the key reasons that our conventional medical system works the way it does is that the normal function of the immune system present in the pain, swelling, temperature and redness are now considered as diagnostic criterion of disease. Our current system will utilize normal functioning to define a disease and by removing the immune symptoms treatment is often palliative, enter the “gag” in the mouth of the messenger.
The Hippocratic principle of “do no harm” is often compromised with the risky use of pharmaceuticals to control normal functions on a long term basis. One need only look at the PDR for side effects and rare events; whether it is Prednisone, aspirin or Tylenol, Imbrem, Pseudophed, or the more dangerous agents like Methadone, Methyltrexate and the narcotic world of Morphine, Oxycotin and Oxycodone.
I have prescribed almost every agent listed above sparingly as compared to conventional medicine. Pharmaceuticals all have their place and may both help the acute condition and save lives. When you are feeling poorly, listen to the message, reflect on any changes of habits, exposures or other factors that accompany the time line. Try your best to make your health practitioner expand their listening and investigation of the condition. Seek the relief that is essential, but respect the fact that most pain and suffering is a function of an active reparative process that can be guided to completion. Silencing the messenger may relieve how we feel, but may also delay the opportunity to address the causative problems in their early stages. A problem untreated, merely silenced, will eventually lead to a even greater, louder, and stronger message. Listen to the message, seek the cause and seek the needed solution, instead of just silencing pain.
 See Science magazine, November 1984, “A little fever is good for you”.