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Medical Nurbalism

Use Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines in modelling, diagnosis and treatment
  [vote for,

This is an extension of the discussion in the idea linked below.

The vertebral column can be simplified into a curve which continuously changes direction in the anatomical position. Tangents can be placed at any point along this curve which corresponds to a chakra. I suggest that rather than worrying about whether chakras exist or not, they simply be defined as the points along the curvature of the spine where lines not intersecting that curvature are tangent to it. This curve can be described as a spline with "handles" (i haven't been able to find the technical term for these) where the chakras are. If the body moves, the spine can again be described similarly. This also applies to kyphosis, scoliosis and the effects of osteoporosis on the vertebral column.

The surface of the body, muscles and viscera can also be described as NURBSs. Muscle flexion and extension and the growth, movement and distension of the viscera can also be modelled as NURBSs. In the case of muscles, this could be useful for the diagnosis of poor usage leading to muscle strain, other muscle-related injuries, particularly in sports or exercise, or to diagnose various disorders such as various forms of arthritis or mononeuropathy. Atrophy resulting from various causes, such as cervical ribs, and pseudohypertrophy associated with muscular dystrophy, could also be detected. The same principle applies to breathing - asthma might be diagnosed in this way, and improved breathing technique could be trained using this kind of feedback. Early hypertrophy of accessory respiratory muscles is another possibility here. Minimal involvement of changes in chest shape and size could be used to detect emphysema and injuries to the pleura. It could also be applied to monitoring change in uterine size, allowing the early diagnosis of such conditions as molar pregnancy, oligohydramnios, polyhydramnios, small-for-dates pregnancies and gestational diabetes. Distinctions between different causes of abdominal distension could also be made, for instance ascites would be dependent, intestinal obstruction might involve changes in the shape of the abdomen which would allow the location of the obstruction and distinctions might be made between a tubal pregnancy and appendicitis.

Lipomas, mammary cysts and tumours might also be diagnosable without a mammogram or other scan in this way.

Where measurable quantities vary with the passage of time, a series of recordings at intervals may be interpolated to gain a fairly good estimate of the quantity in between the points when they are measured. This can be useful, for example, if the quantity exceeds a healthy, acceptable or safe limit at such a time but this is not measured - it could be concluded fairly reliably that this may take place even if not measured. It can also be calculated how long it takes for a remedy to reach a peak in the bloodstream in a particular individual by making similar measurements, though this is generally a fairly simple curve. Put these together and a dosage and time of administration can be found to head off a peak or trough of a particular nature which would be harmful, unacceptable or hazardous, thereby improving the targeting of such conditions as essential hypertension, insomnia or bipolar states.

Combine this with another factor which makes a difference and there is a similar three-dimensional graph with a surface rather than a line, on which critical points or windows of opportunity can be identified. Moreover, the patient's state may be manipulable into these areas of the surface concenred by timing, dosage and other non-pharmacological approaches to health.

I don't know how ambitious or realistic this is, but it's a thought. Maybe it won't work - this is the HB.

nineteenthly, Dec 17 2011

Organic drugs http://www.halfbake...2Organic_22_20drugs
In the discussion - NURBS are mentioned. [nineteenthly, Dec 17 2011]

NURBS http://web.cs.wpi.e...63/talks/nurbs.html
What they are for anyone who doesn't already know [nineteenthly, Dec 17 2011]


       (1) You're channeling the spirit of [Vernon]. Stop it, before an exorcism becomes necessary.   

       (2) Ibuprofen.
8th of 7, Dec 17 2011

       This is indeed the HB, where ambition and realism are interchangable and everything will work if you argue your side hard enough. I say we give this one a try.
Alterother, Dec 17 2011

       This was almost tl:dr, but if I understand correctly, the idea is that changes in body morphology might reflect underlying illness (fair enough) and that analysing these changes in morphology using the parameters of computer modelling might provide a quantitative way of measuring this. Is that right?   

       If I did understand and if my summary is correct, then this would suggest that the orginal text could have been shortened by near-homeopathic factor.   

       Just don't go all Reiky on us.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 17 2011

       That's the first bit, [MB]. The other bit is about giving the right treatment at the right time and probable peaks and troughs where there are gaps in measurement.   

       Sorry about the length - i said too much because it was noisy here - Richard E Grant was involved, though not in person.
nineteenthly, Dec 17 2011

       //That's the first bit, [MB]//   

       The second bit, then, could be represented by adding the phrase ", thereby allowing better timing and dosage of treatment" between the second "this" and the first "." of my above annotation.   

       Richard E. Grant has much to answer for.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 17 2011

       He has. It was 'How To Get Ahead In Advertising'. I was a bit splurgy, it's a weakness of mine.
nineteenthly, Dec 17 2011

       Anorexics - they're boxy, but they're good.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 17 2011

       These NURBS are the sort of scientific respectability that alternative medical techniques love to don. Numbers, beautiful geometry etc. If chiropractors do research I could definitely imagine this NURB concept being very hot.
bungston, Dec 20 2011

       I once went to a chiropracter by mistake. He offered to realign the plates of my skull using his fingertips. From my understanding of anatomy, this is a job best left to a baseball bat.   

       I am therefore somewhat skeptical of the research capabilities of chiropracters, and would be wary of giving them a new scientific tool with which to veneer themselves.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 20 2011

       I know one good chiropracter, and he makes no effort to hide his disdain for other chiropracters. Unlike some, this guy knows exactly what he can do and makes no pretenses that his craft is a miracle cure-all. He also does a helluva lot of research, is constantly attending chiro and medical CE conferences, and when he puts my joints back where they need to be, it feels _so_ good.   

       So there's at least one good one. Next time I see him, I'll show him this post.
Alterother, Dec 20 2011

       Fighting talk, [Alterother].
nineteenthly, Dec 20 2011

       Was it? Alright then, you may choose your weapons.
Alterother, Dec 20 2011

       Elbow crutches ?
8th of 7, Dec 20 2011

       Not from me, [Alterother]. My own view of chiropractors is that the libel thing is out of order, i wonder how - OK, start again:   

       Whether it works or not: i would hope and in fact expect that chiropractors are good at establishing a rapport with their clients, which is therapeutic. They also touch their clients, which is another thing - skin hunger and all that. There are some conditions to which nerve compression would contribute, but it can't be the be-all and end-all of health. I don't know how they approach that. Having said that, in the nineteenth century there was a rather stupid project of a similar nature within Western herbalism which attempted to analyse the action of every single herb in terms of its influence on the autonomic nervous system, about which contemporary herbalists are somewhat embarrassed and don't mention. I can imagine that had it gone further, herbalism would be similarly reductivist.   

       However, there's another aspect to this. A line of work aiming to be a profession is not done any favours when libel laws are used to oppress sensible discussion, and in itself that loses them credibility for me. Also, their professional body at least emphasise the lucrative aspect of the practice. It may be that there are individual practitioners, though, who are well pissed-off with the actions and approach concerned. I think they probably act in good faith.
nineteenthly, Dec 21 2011

       My last word on chiropracters (for the moment): I have old injuries that occasionally cause joints or individual bones to come out of place. I have a very talented, very sensible chiropracter who puts them back in the right place, and I feel better. I have met or heard of other chiropracters who are complete and utter kooks, as has he.   

       On a related note, I feel that herbalism is misunderstood, misrepresented, and unjustly maligned, and is a serious (and ancient) part of holistic medicine. So do my wife, both of my parents (an MD and a DVM) and my chiropracter. I have also met proponents of herbalism who are complete and utter kooks.   

       <LATER EDIT (IMPORTANT!!!): fixed the last paragraph to clarify my pro-herbalism stance. Sorry for the earlier ambiguity; hope I didn't offend anyone with what could have seemed like a negative statement but was actually just poor sentence structure.>
Alterother, Dec 21 2011

       Herbalism has it's place. And that place is largely in the research department of pharma companies. Understanding what, if any, the active ingredients of an "herbal remedy" are, is extremely useful, and in practical terms has led to Asprin, Quinine, and I'm sure some others I'm not remembering.   

       Claiming that herbs can replace medicine without sufficient double blind studies to back you up, on the other hand, is complete and utter BS. As is claiming that an herbal medicine has any value just because it's traditional. So is bleeding people to balance the humours (and yes, I know leaches have come back into vouge, but not to balance the humours). If it works, do the studies to prove it.
MechE, Dec 21 2011

       [MechE], the studies are expensive, and herbal remedies are not very profitable. So where is the benefit to big pharma companies in doing the research?   

       It's like saying, any food item that has not been analysed and proven to be healthy and nutritious should not be consumed. (e.g. my local University forbids the consumption of non-commercially prepared foodstuffs in its premises).
pocmloc, Dec 21 2011

       //the studies are expensive, and herbal remedies are not very profitable.//   

       Can you give numbers? I suspect that studies on efficacy could be cheaper than those for new compounds, given that the herbs are already taken (and hence there are fewer restrictions on the study and its participants). I also suspect that herbal remedies are pretty big business, and not nearly as homey as they'd like you to believe.   

       The difference between herbal medicine and food is that herbal medicines explicitly claim (often) to help in treating or preventing illness. If nothing else, they have to prove themselves "fit for purpose", just as any other product does.   

       It's not enough for herbal medicines to be "harmless" in the same way that food is. An ineffective herbal cold remedy is one thing, but an ineffective herbal cancer treatment, if people rely on it instead of proven treatments, is another.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 21 2011

       Actually, an aside (feel free to delete this if it's taking things too far off topic).   

       Modern pharmaceuticals have improved dramatically over the last 100 years (better antibiotics, more effective and safer painkillers, better chemotherapeutics, you name it).   

       In contrast, I get the impression that herbalism has not "improved" since some hazy ancient time when it reached its apogee. Am I wrong? Are herbal medicines "better" today than in the past? Have people (over centuries) not managed to breed plants which contain more of the active ingredients or produce fewer side effects?   

       And, if not, is the lack of improvement an indication that there is nothing there to improve?
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 21 2011

       I had various reasons for becoming a herbalist, which were on the whole not connected to the efficacy or otherwise of herbs, though i could make a case for efficacy if i could be bothered, and have done before. However, for getting on for a decade now my primary problem with herbalism has been how to stop doing it without starving even more than i am because i'm practicing as a herbalist. There are now even bigger problems, again unconnected with the issue of efficacy, with herbalism than there were before which afflict many other areas of probably everyone's lives.   

       [Alterother], i was out!   

       [MB], because i have certain perverse epistemological views, i'm not sure progress happens as such anywhere. Herbalism as practiced today differs from how it was practiced in the past but it also differs between practitioners. I suppose i should elucidate. The problem with herbalism as i see it is that it's a form of self- sufficiency which is confused with complementary medicine, but in order to practice it as such, people need medical knowledge and experience or they will tend to die a lot, either because they have poisoned themselves or because they have misdiagnosed themselves. So my mission, if i can be bothered to accept it (and i probably can't), is to do what i can to encourage people to take care of their own health and not to suppose they are currently more competent than they are while encouraging them to acquire more skills in this respect. They are in fact not generally very interested in doing this and would prefer something nice and easy. Also, much of the time they've engaged in activities, often due to having been put in a position where they believe they have little choice but to do so, which have harmed their health, and regardless of what might be considered a good way of dealing with the problem, it would be more effective to find a way to prevent them from getting into the situation in the first place.
nineteenthly, Dec 21 2011

       Your business card actually says "Hedge Witch" on it, doesn't it.
FlyingToaster, Dec 21 2011

       //because i have certain perverse epistemological views, i'm not sure progress happens as such anywhere. //   

       OK, instead of calling it "progress" (perhaps one man's progress is another man's Malthusian catastrolypse), how about "more directly effective at preventing people from drying or suffering"? Under this definition, antibiotics are generally more effective than the previous antibacterials, which I count as progress.   

       (Of course, antibiotics mean we have resistant bacteria, and maybe there are too many people anyway, yada yada, but if I get a bacterial infection today I am more likely to be alive tomorrow as a result of antibiotics.)   

       So, by any reasonable standard, antibiotics are more effective than their predecessors, as antibacterials.   

       My question was: can the same be said of herbal medicines? If I go to a herbalist with, say, a UTI, can he prescribe me something which is more effective than his counterpart in, say, 1700 could have done?   

       I'm not really asking a philosophical question. I'm just asking if herbal medicine has got any better over time.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 21 2011


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