recently, life for Rahela Begum, a 46-year-old housewife
and mother of two, was pure misery. For the last one
and a half years Rahela was plagued by acute pain
from her hips to her feet. She would wake up with
pain, do her household chores with pain and even sleep
with pain. To get relief she tried everything -- allopathic
treatment, homeopathic medicine, even ayurvedic concoctions,
all in vain. Tests revealed that she had sciatica
triggered by a deterioration of bone in her spine.
Taking high doses of painkillers became routine. Going
out was an excruciating experience. “I was always
irritable, depressed. I would cook sitting on a chair
because standing was so painful. I couldn't move from
side to side in bed and would often lie awake with
pain at night. Even during my labour pains I never
shed a tear but this pain made me cry.” It was an
advertisement in a Bangla daily of an ancient Chinese
method called acupuncture being offered at a clinic,
that caught Rahela's attention. At that point she
was willing to try anything to get relief and acupuncture
offered a ray of hope. Rahela and her husband went
to the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) clinic in
Gulshan taking her X rays and MRI reports. A Chinese
doctor examined her, studied the reports and listened
to all her complaints. On that very day Rahela insisted
on starting her treatment and to her surprise the
very first sitting brought remarkable relief. By the
11th sitting the pain was completely gone. “I still
am paranoid that the pain will come back but God willing,
it hasn't,” says Rahela who keeps a hot water bottle
beside her bed and tries to avoid steps -- advice
from her doctor.
a Bangladeshi and Chinese joint venture, receives
around 30 to 32 patients a day. A large number of
patients are expatriates, familiar with acupuncture
but Bangladeshis like Rahela are also becoming interested
in this ancient treatment that has worked wonders
on many people suffering from acute pain. The clinic,
a Quasem Group venture with Chinese collaboration,
has four Chinese doctors who have trained and practiced
in China. Located on Road 114, Gulshan 2, the clinic
is open every day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 3 p.m. to
5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
a patient first arrives at the Clinic he/she has a
consultation with the Chinese doctors on duty, explains
the Clinic's director Anwarul Ghani. “Usually a patient
requires 4-5 sittings lasting 20 minutes to 40 minutes,”
says Ghani. “Treatment requires at least five sittings
but usually not more than 10.”
Yang Jinhong, a professor from China of Acupuncture
at TCM clinic using moxibustion on a patient.
using needles brings with it risk of contamination,
the Clinic uses only disposable ones. “Once a needle
is used we break it in the breaking machine and then
bury it in our own grounds. We do not give or sell
just how painful is it? “It's like a pin prick at
first when the needle is inserted but then it goes
away,” says a middle aged woman who has just completed
her third session to treat her arthritis and will
probably need another sitting to get complete relief
says her doctor, Dr. Yang Jinhong, a Professor of
Acupuncture. Most of Dr. Yang's patients come to the
Clinic with extreme pain from various ailments such
as migraine, spondalitis, lumbago, frozen shoulder,
facial palsy and of course arthritis. Acupuncture,
however, is used in innumerable treatments, reveals
Dr. Yang who has 20 years experience in this form
of medicine. These include from treating muscle atrophy
to painful post-operative flatulence to epilepsy.
One of Dr. Yang's patients was an eight-year old mentally
disabled boy with severe epilepsy. The child could
not talk, was always irritable and would get seizures
every day. After acupuncture treatment the seizures
were reduced to once a month, the boy started talking
and became much more cheerful than before.
A quick tour of the clinic reveals that it's not just
about sticking needles into the body. Acupuncture
treatment also includes a few other rather unusual
techniques. Moxibustian, for example, involves burning
a pinch of a Chinese herb concoction over slices of
ginger which are placed on the patient's body. As
the herbs get 'cooked' the ginger juice combined with
all the herbal goodness seeps out and into the skin.
This is a very effective treatment for colds and asthma
says Dr. Yang.
is another curious method which uses dozens of round
glass cups which are heated first then stuck on the
body. The cups are kept there for sometime to relieve
pain, associated with colds, fever or muscle pulls.
The surprising part of these methods as our visit
to the clinic revealed is that a patient may sleep
through the entire session with scores of spindly
needles inserted all over his body or a dozen glass
cups stuck on his back! In order for acupuncture to
work, however, the patient must complete all the scheduled
the cupping method, round glass cups are heated and
kept on the body for a while to relieve pain.
For 68 year old
Shamsunnahar Musa acupuncture has enabled her to start
walking again. Osteoathritis, a common ailment in
women, caused extreme pain in her knee joints which
made walking impossible for over a year. Shamsun-nahar
has had about 14 or 15 sessions of acupuncture at
the clinic. The pain has significantly been reduced
and she is able to walk again.
Bangladeshi patients are just beginning to explore
this kind of treatment and are still somewhat ambivalent
about it, doctors here are very keen to train in acupuncture
and include it in their practice of medicine. The
clinic's founders are already planning to give extensive
courses to young doctors. At the end of the course
the doctors will receive a certificate from the Acupuncture
Institute of China Academy of Traditional Chinese
Medicine, Beijing. A long-term goal is to build a
full-fledged institute that will offer training and
Acupuncture, in fact, is becoming increasingly accepted
in medical circles around the world, as an effective
treatment of pain. In China, its birthplace, it is
not considered an alternative medicine but as part
of mainstream health care with a scientific basis.
Doctors like Dr. Yang have had to take a six year
course plus a year's internship before practicing.
Europe acupuncture has been a big hit. In Germany
50,000 physicians practice acupuncture and more than
2,000 acupuncturists are licensed in France. (TIME,
May 19, 2003) One of the reasons for its popularity
is that acupuncture has significantly reduced health
care costs. The method may extend over weeks but it
greatly reduces the use of expensive drugs. In Bangladesh
the cost-benefit analysis is not so clear as acupuncture
is still a very new and mysterious concept that is
yet to gain the widespread popularity of China or
Europe. At the TCM clinic in Dhaka consultation fee
is Tk. 400 and each sitting costs about Tk. 400, which
is still quite expensive even for middle class patients.
Public hospitals especially, that cater to poor patients,
could do wonders in lessening their financial burden,
by incorporating acupuncture in their normal regime.
The biggest plus
point in favour of acupuncture however, is that it
has no side effects. So at least you know the little
pin pricks will not damage your kidney or liver or
mess up your digestive system -- side effects of many
of course, is not a miracle worker for many serious
illnesses such as cancer or AIDS. It is a method that
seems to work best at relieving pain or curing many
pain-related ailments. Acupuncture points are very
precise so it is also crucial that the acupuncturist
is properly trained and knows what he/she is doing
before popping the needles into the patient's body.
75, Towfiqul Islam, a retired secretary, has tried
all sorts of treatments in many countries for his
thirty-year old backache. But even numerous chiropractic
sessions in the US and heavy doses of medication prescribed
by an American spine specialist did not provide the
satisfactory relief he was searching for. “I was taking
500mg pain relievers 3 times a day when I noticed
that my feet were beginning to swell,” says Islam
who finally decided on acupuncture which did not have
any side effects. Over the years Islam has tried acupuncture
off and on at other clinics. “I got some relief but
not much. Now over time acupuncture has become more
refers to the TCM clinic in Gulshan where he now goes
to and seems to be satisfied with the treatment. Islam
has taken seven sessions and so far the pain has noticeably
reduced. “I just hope the relief lasts,” he says.
the Yin and Yang in Order
Chinese Medicine, commonly known as TCM, is one of
the oldest systems of medicine in history, with recorded
examples dating as far back as two thousand years
before the birth of Christ. Chinese medicine is quite
complex and is usually difficult for people to comprehend.
This is because TCM is based, in part, on the belief
that we live in a universe in which everything is
interconnected. What happens to one part of the body
affects every other part of the body. The mind and
body are not viewed separately, but as part of an
energetic system. Similarly, organs and organ systems
are viewed as interconnected structures that work
together to keep the body functioning. Many of the
concepts found and emphasised in Chinese medicine
are unique. Take for instance the concept of qi (pronounced
chi). Qi is considered a vital force or energy responsible
for controlling the functions of the human mind and
body. It flows through the body via channels, or pathways,
which are called meridians. There are a total of 20
meridians: 12 primary meridians, which connect to
specific organs or organ systems and eight secondary
meridians. Imbalances in the flow of qi are the reasons
behind different ailments. Therefore, the correction
of this flow can restore the body's balance.
Chinese medicine encompasses several methods designed
to heal. When people think of TCM, they automatically
associate it with acupuncture alone. But acupuncture
is only a component of the whole procedure. While
it is true acupuncture is the major and the most integral
part of TCM, the system also includes therapeutic
techniques like acu pressure, moxibustion, tuina and
gua sha massages, cupping, herbal medicine, meditation,
diet, exercise (often in the form of qigong and tai
chi) and also lifestyle changes.
get a better idea of TCM, one needs to understand
the 'Yin and Yang' Theory. The theory of yin and yang
is the most fundamental concept of ancient Chinese
medicine. One of the major beliefs of TCM is that
all things in the universe are either yin or yang.
However, there are no absolutes, nothing is ever all
yin or all yang but a balance between the two forces.
For instance, when day changes into night, it is an
example of a yang object changing into a yin object;
when winter turns into spring;
it is considered a changing
from yin to yang. These forces are opposite yet complementary.
They share an interdependent relationship, without
yin, there would be no yang, and without yang, no
Yang is generally associated with items or concepts
that are bright, warm, and in motion. Yin is generally
associated with objects or ideas that are dark, still
and cold. Any given frame of reference can be divided
into opposite factors, i.e. a yin side and a yang
side. For instance, a human body can be divided into
exterior and interior sections; the temperature can
be divided into hot or cold; time can be divided into
day or night; animals can divided into hot-blooded
or cold-blooded, and so on.
can Yin and Yang theory be applied to Chinese Medicine?
Each organ in the body
has an element of yin and yang within it. Some organs,
such as the liver, are predominantly yang; others,
such as the kidneys, are yin. Even though an organ
may be predominantly yin or yang in nature, the balance
of yin and yang is maintained throughout the body,
because the sum total of yin and yang will be in balance.
According to the theory, the body is not always in
an exact balance of yin and yang. Even when the body
is healthy, there may be subtle shifts from one state
to the other. When a person gets angry, for instance,
the yang state may dominate and when that person has
calmed down and resumed to a peaceful state, yin may
become dominant. It is perceived in TCM that illness
is caused by an imbalance of yin and yang in the body.
Basic treatment of diseases caused by the imbalance
aims at replenishing depleted yin or yang, and it
is through this process that the balance of yin and
yang is restored. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners
attempt to determine the exact nature of the imbalance,
then fix it through a variety of approaches, including
acupuncture, herbal remedies, exercise, and changes
in diet and lifestyle. Once the balance is restored
in a person's body, s/he regains her/his health.
people may find it difficult to accept how traditional
Chinese medicine works, the results show that TCM
is indeed, very effective. Several studies have reported
on traditional Chinese medicine's success in treating
a wide range of conditions, from nausea and vomiting
to skin disorders, tennis elbow and back pain. Many
Western-trained physicians have begun to see the benefits
traditional Chinese medicine has to offer to patients.
More people around the world are showing faith in
alternative, herbal treatments and turning to acupuncture
and other components of traditional Chinese medicine
than ever before. The reasons for this may vary, but
researchers believe that the increasing interest in
TCM is due largely to its effectiveness, affordability
and lack of adverse side-effects compared to Western
is an ancient Chinese method of treating a disease
or relieving pain by inserting one or more metal needles
at a certain point or certain points on the human
body. It has been practiced in China and the Orient
for at least 5000 years. Acupuncture is practiced
based on discerning a pattern of imbalance in the
body and treating accordingly. The imbalance can be
caused by physical or emotional difficulties. Acupuncture
is the process of encouraging the body to promote
natural healing. Traditional Chinese medicine holds
that there are as many as 2,000 acupuncture points
on the human body, which are connected by 20 pathways
(12 main, 8 secondary) called meridians. These meridians
conduct energy or qi, between the surface of the body
and its internal organs. Each point has a different
effect on the qi that passes through it. Acupuncture
is done by inserting needles and applying heat or
electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture
points. Acupuncture stimulates a regulatory system
which affects the body separately from the nervous,
hormonal and biochemical systems. This regulatory
system is comprised of meridians and points, which
have a higher electrical conductivity than the surrounding
tissues. When these points are stimulated, they send
an electrical signal through the meridians which intensifies
the healing process and decreases pain.
A skilled acupuncturist
carefully notes down the patient's problems and observes
him carefully to make the correct diagnosis. The treatment
procedure may include any or a combination of TCM
components such as acupuncture, acu pressure, moxibustion,
herbal medicines, diet and lifestyle changes.
Acupuncture is considered highly effective not only
as a preventive medicine, but as a drug free treatment
of signs and symptoms. Tests reveal that the process
releases endorphins from the brain, which makes acupuncture
particularly effective in pain control. It also affects
sugar and cholesterol levels in the blood, the functioning
of the gastrointestinal system and the activity of
the endocrine system.
There are several theories
as to how exactly acupuncture works. One theory suggests
that pain impulses are blocked from reaching the spinal
cord or brain at various "gates" to these
areas. This theory is often known as the 'Gate control
theory of pain'. According to this theory, pain signals
must pass through a number of high traffic 'gates',
as they move from the area of injury to upward through
the spinal cord to the brain. Since a majority of
acupuncture points are either connected to or are
located near neural structures, this suggests that
acupuncture stimulates the nervous system.
theory known as the 'Electrical Theory' points out
that the body generates tiny but detectable discharges.
The electrical field influences the growth and functioning
of some types of cells. Acupuncture points are concentrated
in regions of low electrical resistance. Studies have
shown that there is a correlation between the electromagnetic
fields in the body and the channels of meridians.
The Electric Theory of Acupuncture suggests that acupuncture
works by influencing the body's electromagnetic fields.
Another theory has it that acupuncture stimulates
the body to produce narcotic-like substances called
endorphins, which reduce pain.
Yang explains the healing process of acupuncture as
well as other traditional Chinese medicine techniques.
Unlike hypodermic needles,
acupuncture needles are solid and hair-thin, and they
are not designed to cut the skin. They are also inserted
into much more shallow levels than hypodermic needles,
generally no more than a half-inch to an inch depending
on the type of treatment being delivered.
While the acupuncture
experience of each person is different, most people
feel only a minimal amount of pain as the needles
are inserted. Some people feel a tingling sensation,
while others feel relaxed. In fact, one of the greatest
advantages of acupuncture is the rare occurrence of
serious side effects. The trained acupuncturist can
adjust treatment any time after noticing changes in
an individual's condition.
When practiced by a licensed,
trained acupuncturist, acupuncture is believed to
be very safe. Acupuncture already has some inherent
safeguards as a healing technique. Because the treatment
is drug-free, patients do not have to worry about
taking several doses of a medication and suffering
a possible adverse reaction.
However, there are certain
health conditions that an acupuncturist needs to know
before someone decides to undergo treatment. For instance,
if one has a pacemaker, one should not receive electro-acupuncture
due to the possibility of electromagnetic interference
with the pacemaker. Similarly, acupuncture is not
recommended for people who have high blood pressure
and who are prone to bleeding or bruising easily.
Also people taking anticoagulant drugs may bleed easily,
so they should consult their physicians before doing
conditions does it treat?
In the late 1970s, the
World Health Organization recognised the ability of
acupuncture and Oriental medicine to treat nearly
four dozen common ailments, including neuromusculoskeletal
conditions (such as arthritis, neuralgia, insomnia,
dizziness, and neck/shoulder pain); emotional and
psychological disorders (such as depression and anxiety);
circulatory disorders (such as hypertension, angina
pectoris, arteriosclerosis and anemia); addictions
to alcohol, nicotine and other drugs; respiratory
disorders (such as emphysema, sinusitis, allergies
and bronchitis); and gastrointestinal conditions (such
as food allergies, ulcers, chronic diarrhea, constipation,
indigestion, intestinal weakness, anorexia and gastritis).
In 1997, a consensus
statement released by the National Institutes of Health
in the US found that acupuncture could be useful by
itself or in combination with other therapies to treat
addiction, headaches, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow,
fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, lower
back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma.
studies have demonstrated that acupuncture may help
in the rehabilitation of stroke patients and can relieve
nausea in patients recovering from surgery.
patient undergoing moxibustion therapy.
Moxibustion is a traditional
Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning
of a small, spongy herb to facilitate healing. The
material used is mainly 'moxa-wool (a combination
of herbs) in the form of cone or stick. For centuries
Moxibustion and acupuncture have been combined in
clinical practice. Moxibustion treats and prevents
diseases by applying heat to points of certain locations
of the human body. The purpose of moxibustion, as
with most forms of traditional Chinese medicine, is
to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi,
and maintain general health.
are two types of moxibustion: direct and indirect.
In direct moxibustion, a small, cone-shaped amount
of moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and
burned. Indirect moxibustion is currently the more
popular form of healing because there is a much lower
risk of pain or burning. In indirect moxibustion,
a practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick, roughly
the shape and size of a cigar, and holds it close
to the area being treated for several minutes until
the area turns red. Another form of indirect moxibustion
uses both acupuncture needles and moxa. A needle is
inserted into an acupoint and retained. The tip of
the needle is then wrapped in moxa and ignited, generating
heat to the point and the surrounding area. After
the desired effect is achieved, the moxa is extinguished
and the needle(s) removed.
Liu Yutang, attending physician of TCM Clinic applying
acupuncture technique on a patient.
Cupping is a therapy
in which a jar is attached to the skin surface to
cause local congestion through the negative pressure
created by introducing heat in the form of an ignited
material. In ancient China, cupping method was known
as the “Horn method”, because the animal horn was
used at the time. The materials for making glass cups
and the methods too, have greatly improved with time.
Cupping is also used along with acupuncture and moxibustion
as part of an integrated therapy.
Tuina is a form of Oriental
massage that has been used in China for centuries.
A combination of massage, acupressure and other forms
of body manipulation, tuina works by applying pressure
to acu points, meridians and groups of muscles or
nerves to remove blockages that prevent the free flow
of qi. Removing these blockages restores the balance
of qi in the body, leading to improved health and
vitality. The details of tuina's techniques and uses
were originally documented in The Yellow Emperor's
Classics of Internal Medicine, which was written about
2,500 years ago. Its popularity and recognition grew
steadily to the point that by the sixth century, many
traditional Chinese medical schools had incorporated
tuina into their programmes as a separate department.
In China, tuina is currently taught as a separate
but equal field of study, with practitioners receiving
the same level of training and enjoying the same professional
respect as acupuncturists and herbalists.