Creating Waves of Awareness
WHAT’S A SYMPTOM?
Dr. M. A. Usmani
Copyright 2011-13/All rights reserved © Dr Usmani
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Some 25 years ago, (Feb. 5, 1988), I was confronted with a hard choice to opt either for the 10 volumes of Hering’s Guiding Symptoms or 12 volumes of T. F. Allen’s Encyclopedia of Pure Materia Medica. Hering’s was an attractive book, with beautiful get-up and paper quality. So naturally I started perusing and skipping through the pages of this book randomly from one volume to the other. I was marveled to see that many symptoms did not seem to me symptoms at all. What was between two full-stops, could hardly qualify as a symptom. I was reminded of the Microsoft’s Word Processor, now called Microsoft Office Word. The text between two full-stops must grammatically be a sentence. When the sentence is incomplete, or grammatically incorrect, the Processor would underline it with a faded line. That line doesn’t let you take rest unless you correct the syntax. There was no such gadget in homeopathy that could tell the writer that the matter which he is putting between two full-stops, does not qualify as a symptom: i.e. with Location, Sensations, and Conditions; the latter as to its genesis or causation, activation, modes and times (or occasions) of amelioration and aggravation. So I decided to buy Allen’s Encyclopedia. I had already The Condensed Materia Medica of Hering.
The concept of symptom is very complicated and varied in meaning and importance. A symptom to be a symptom, homeopathically speaking, must have at least three conditions fulfilled. It must have a definite and determinable location, or seat of discomfort. It must have definite expression of relating the discomfort, which technically we call Sensations. Further it must have Conditions of modification, as modes of relief and intensification of complaints of the morbid sensations, or conditions of Aggravation or Amelioration of pain. The Conditions can also include Cause of Aggravation or regeneration of painful sensations.
Then there are further some nuances which give validity to a syntactically perfect symptom. Which means that a perfect symptom, with it location, sensations and conditions well defined may not still qualify as a therapeutic necessity. For example you have started a chronic case. On the next visit the patient tells you many fleeting symptoms during the week that appeared and stayed for moment and disappeared to oblivion. But every symptom that the patient reports you as having occurred to him was a perfect symptom with all its structural conditions. What you advise to the patient is: ‘worry not, gentleman, let the waves pass, as they would, because your disease has entered into a flux now, and only note that symptom that sticks and does not buzz off.’
One time happening can never becomes a symptom, unless it recurs or stays unchanged for a time. Even such a drastic happening as for example, a six years old lad, having spent a day picnicking in the sun; when coming home suddenly becomes erratic and does not recognize his siblings and the parents. You call a doctor, and by the time the doctor reaches, the child has already returned to his real self. Worried, you discuss with the doctor, and he comforts you by telling that the possible cause might be the long exposure to the sun, etc. But the fact is that that child is now 27 years old, and had no repetition of the symptoms and nothing unusual otherwise. So one time’s symptoms should not be prescribed upon, but be kept under observation of a caring doctor.
There are lot of confusing symptoms in materia medicas, and lot of confusing rubrics in every repertory. A full exposé is impossible here. I give one or two examples here.
Differences between the sensations of ‘raw’ ‘sore’ and ‘scrapy’ is very difficult to make. Let us discuss it with reference to chest.
a) Raw pain in chest on coughing: does not have Bell. and Bry; but has Carb.v.
b) Sore pain in chest on coughing: has Bell. (in Italics); BRY. (in Black or capital letters);
c) Scraping can be found under Larynx and Trachea.
d) Rawness in trachea when coughing: Bell. and Bry. are missing. Carb.v. is present.
In the Chapter on Extremities, in Kent’s Repertory, p.1077, there is a rubric:
Pain in Calves:
1) Morning: Calc-p
Stairs, on going down: Rhus-t.
Waking, on: Gels.
[How can you choose? What flimsy differences!]
2) Afternoon: Rhus-t
4 p.m., lying on back with legs flexed: Nat-m.
[What a symptom? Lying at 4 p.m.! If the same symptom occurs at 2 p.m. would not Nat-m. cure? Or if he is flexing his legs and is not lying on back, but on side, then what? Murphy has ditto copied it. A brainless symptom indeed!]
It reminds me of an episode. A patient of mine, a lady, complained that she suffered severe knee pain during intercourse. I asked her to send her husband to me. After enquiring the detail I advised him a change of posture for intercourse. Our busy-bee homeopaths, wherever they find a semblance of a symptom, it is a pure nectar to them, and avidly suck it and hastily infuse it into the hive—their repertory. So they would have entered this symptom in the repertory; and as the lady was cured by Benzoic Acid, they would have entered the rubric: ‘Knee pain, excruciating, (in a woman) during coition’. And have written Benzoic Acid in italic or in black letters. What a great (voluptuous) addition it would prove to be to our Repertory!
Again, there are more gems. In Murphy, p.1121
Aching in Calves: Walking, while: Myrica
Walking in Open Air: Fagopyrum
Now what’s the difference in ‘Walking’ and ‘Walking in open air’ for a pain in calves? Moreover when only one remedy is mentioned against a rubric, one expects it to be a sure shot, which, I’m sorry, it is not.
Examples can be multiplied in hundreds which one doesn’t intend, nor has time thereto. Everyone should try to make homeopathy scientific in its all aspects, because the challenge is great and the survival hard-fought.