Can sticking pins in your body really make you feel better? Time Out tries acupuncture healing in Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
I have a pounding headache when I arrive at the Chinese Medical Clinic. It’s been a week of burning the midnight oil and my body is feeling the effects. ‘Have you been losing your temper a lot lately?’ asks acupuncturist Dr Wu Ji Yong, as I sit across from him with my tongue stuck out. I find this an odd question, but have to admit that fatigue has indeed made me snappy. So I answer yes, and ask how this emotional state is so apparent (given that I am, I think, all charm and friendliness at this moment in time). I am told that the redness of my tongue is the dead giveaway, signifying ‘a hot heart’.
According to Dr Wu, the tongue provides a pretty accurate snapshot of one’s state of health, and, based largely on its colour and the thickness of its coating, aided by a pulse reading, it’s possible to slot your ailment into a particular category and choose the treatment accordingly. Used for millennia in China to cure everything from the common cold to mental illness, acupuncture basically involves placing needles on acu-points throughout the body selected according to the complaint in order to clear blockages and facilitate the flow of chi (life energy) and blood through the meridians. For me, these points are the head, face, hands and ankle area.
I’ve had acupuncture before (with Dr Mohammed Jahromi at the Ibn Nafees Hospital) and was surprised by the lack of pain involved then, but I’ve never had needles stuck into my head and face, which does cause momentary pain. Needles in place, Dr Wu then applies a burning cone of the herb mugwort to various points to further stimulate the flow of chi.
This process, called moxibustion, feels decidedly less clinical than the application of needles, and I am compelled to ask if there’s any hard evidence to support the approach. Yes, he says; in China recent scientific research has conclusively proved the efficacy of acupuncture combined with moxibustion.
‘But,’ he sighs, ‘we still haven’t actually found the meridiens, which is a problem.’ Whereas in Western medicine you can pinpoint exactly where a vein or nerve is, these energy channels aren’t a physical thing one can locate, he says. ‘Yet we know they exist because they were mapped out in minute detail by ancient practitioners and it’s been proven to work for thousands of years.’ Since graduating with his masters in acupuncture, Dr Wu has personally cured numerous illnesses. Most remarkable, he claims, was healing the victim of a stroke, who had limited movement for four years, but after a month of acupuncture was able to walk with a stick and do daily chores.
Also supporting acupuncture’s worth is the fact that it’s been approved by the World Health Organisation for the treatment of 75 illnesses, says Dr Jahromi, a Bahraini doctor who practiced Western medicine for seven years before specialising in acupuncture. So why did he convert?
‘Acupuncture wasn’t available in Bahrain 20 years ago, and I saw that it offered real benefits,’ he says. ‘For one thing, it’s a safer method of pain management than certain medicines. The prolonged use of painkillers, for example, can thin the blood and cause bleeding in the wall of the stomach, whereas acupuncture can be used to manage or eradicate pain with no side effects.’
Though he’s quick to add that it will always be a complementary therapy to mainstream medicine, and that the two should be used in tandem. ‘For example, diabetics can benefit from acupuncture because it increases blood circulation and burns calories, but they will probably still need to take pills to manage their blood pressure.’If the ears of dieters prick up at the mention of the burning of calories, Dr Jahromi confirms that acupuncture is also an effective means of weight loss.
In this case, needles are placed on acu-points associated with the vagus nerve linking the brain and stomach, with the aim of shrinking the stomach. The needles can also be placed directly into areas with excess fat. These are hooked up to an electrical current which pulses to ‘zap’ the fat. Dr Jahromi tells me patients have lost up to 40kg in six months to a year, depending on the amount of weight they have to lose (more equals quicker).
Back at Dr Wu’s, when the needles are removed after half an hour, the headache still lingers. However an hour later, there does appear to be some relief. And it’s clear skies all the way. The Chinese Medical Clinic, Bahrain Wellness Resort, Avenue 35, Janabiya (17 795 961/39 728 383). BD20 per acupuncture session plus BD20 for initial consultation. Dr Mohammed A Jahromi, Ibn Nafees Hospital (17 722 828). BD15 per acupuncture session plus BD10 for initial consultation.