A U.S. citizen, I have been living full time in Mexico since 1985. My primary medical care has been provided by Mexicans: Doctors, dentists, sobador (a type of acupressure), curanderos (descendents of ancient shaman) and homegrown family “nurses”. In almost all Mexican families, one or more of the women act as first aid specialists. Treating minor health problems with a whole host of medicinal herbs to be taken orally or topologically. And injecting family members with medicines and vitamins requiring needle and syringe.
The laws regarding the distribution of medical care creates major differences between our two cultures. In Mexico you do not need a doctor’s prescription to buy most pharmaceuticals or obtain laboratory tests and X Rays. The result is more “self diagnosis and treatment”. For example: If symptoms exist indicating an infection, Mexicans will go directly to a laboratory to confirm the existence of one. If an infection is detected, the patient will most likely go to a pharmacist for the necessary antibiotic. This approach eliminates the need for a doctor visit and the accompanying costs.
If there is an injury to the muscular skeletal system, Mexican patients will most often go to an X Ray lab to determine the extent of the injury before visiting a physician. If it is simple tendonitis or contusions, without fractures or dislocation, home care is the self prescription. Anti –inflammatory medicines and natural products will be the treatment plan. If injections are required, a family “nurse” or neighbor will do the honors. Many of my Mexican friends inject themselves. Again, skipping the doctor.
This approach of bypassing the physician for simple maladies greatly reduces the cost of health care and unnecessary visits to the doctor or emergency room. I have seen no downside risks to this approach. Contraire, I find that Mexicans are taught to be more responsible in selecting treatment alternatives by first determining “what is wrong”. A common, preventive health, measure is taken when a family member is not ill but feeling a malaise – kind of a sub par health condition. A syringe filled with B 12 is purchased at the pharmacy and injected at home. I don’t know whether placebo affect or a real cure, but I have seen positive results among friends and family from this self administered treatment.
Mexican cities are like Chinese communities, herbal stores are everywhere. These natural medicines work and are prescribed by herb specialists, family members, friends, “curanderos” (descendents of shaman) and physicians as well. Mexican physicians and dentists are trained in herbal medicine, unlike their U.S. colleagues, and often prescribe them. In lieu of pharmaceuticals with negative “side affects”.
The first Spaniards arrived in Mexico in 1519. They were amazed that the Aztecs had acquired such a vast knowledge of medicinal plants. Unfortunately, six years before Cabeza de Vaca’s arrival, the Spaniards destroyed the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. And, in the process, destroyed approximately 3,000 distinct medicinal plants utilized by the natives.
Curanderos (fem. Curanderas) are found throughout Mexico and in some areas of the Southwestern United States. Still practicing shaman traditions dating back thousands of years. The word curandero comes from the word “curar” which means to heal. They are folk healers: On the material level with herbs, amulets and other natural treatments. On the spiritual level using religion, God, saints, prayers and petitions to heal.
Another Mexican healer, found in quantity, are called sobador. In Ensenada there are a dozen I know of. You can see their roadside signs as you drive through neighborhoods. Sobadores use a combination of acupressure, massage, heat and a suction method applied to painful muscle tissue. I have been successfully treated by them for muscle-tendon injuries. They often brought me immediate relief from pain.
In rural areas of Mexico, Curanderos and Sobadores are sometimes the only practitioners for miles. Like all healers, whether physician or witch doctor, there are good ones – bad ones and a few charlatans. However, I find it easier to find a good curandero or sobador as opposed to a good physician. Those who are competent are well known in their communities. Referrals are easy to come by.
So, if you need a physician, a dentist or surgeon, Baja California has the best and at 30% – 50% less cost. If you have a minor ailment, that could be treated by a natural healing alternative, or a health problem traditional medicine cannot treat, we at Mexicomatters want to help in locating a competent healer for your needs. Whether traditional or alternative. And please visit our website for other articles about medical care in Baja.