AS a child, the whole hospital had to be mobilised to hold me before a nurse could inject me. I grew up fearing all needle piercing and shuddering at seeing someone else being pricked. That was until I came across a Chinese clinic that uses needles to relieve pain!
The process is called acupuncture. Dr Liu Dezhog of the Chinese clinic near Kisementi in Kamwokya offered to illustrate how it works. I watched him insert several needles into the skin of his nurse to the depth of a few millimetres.
â€œAcupuncture can cure anything including ulcers, acne, migraine, arthritis, bed-wetting, low libido, alcohol addiction, back pain, menstrual cramps, etc. The most important thing is knowing at which point to pierce the needle.â€
Dezhog convinced me to give acupuncture a try. He pierced me on the thigh and it was completely painless. Apart from seeing the needle enter, you would never know that anything has pricked you. I never grimaced nor blinked. And there was no trace of blood. It all has to do with the therapistsâ€™ tact, he said. I told him that I was feeling some hardening in the groins and he explained that it was a result of the piercing.
â€œEvery point on the body corresponds to different organs,â€ he said. â€œThis point (the thighs) corresponds with the genitals. We treat people with low libido with this kind of acupuncture. Some points in the foot can correspond with the head. For sinuses, we prick into the corner of the eyebrow. The acupuncturistsâ€™ cure for bed-wetting is a needle in the wrist.â€
Dezhog charges sh10,000 to sh20,000 a session, depending on the disease. Some patients have to report back for three to 15 sessions before getting cured.
A decade ago, acupuncture was the sole reserve of Chinese traditional medicine in Kampala. It originated from China more than 2,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest medical procedures in the world.
Today Ugandans practise acupuncture. Everest Mubuuke, a natural therapist at Adam And Eve in Ntinda, is one of them.
The cause of all disorders in the human body is; imbalance of energy, he said. â€œToo much energy in one body part will lead to headaches, ulcers, sinuses, etc. By putting a needle at a corresponding point, you will be restoring normal flow of energy in that part of the body and the person will feel better again. Very little energy flowing through a specific body part will lead to paralysis, low libido, weakness, and drug abuse. Acupuncture increases energy flow to restore normalcy.â€
Mubuuke says he often supplements acupuncture with Chinese herbal medicine, better nutrition and physical exercises.
Before acupuncture, Dezhog diagnoses the patient by feeling the pulse, examining the eyes or tongue and palpating the abdomen.
The acupuncturists needles are not like injection pricks.
Mubuuke said: â€œOur needles are always sealed, sterilised and can only be used once. So, there is no risk of HIV or Hepatitis.â€
Uganda was the first African country to host the Pan African Acupuncture Project (PAAP) training in 2003. During the project, health workers in Africa were trained how to use simple and effective acupuncture techniques to alleviate the devastating symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.
PAAP trained 13 health workers who included midwives, physiotherapists, a traditional healer, and medical doctors from urban and rural health centres.
According to the projectâ€™s newsletter of October 2006, Richard A. Sollom is currently conducting research on treating refugees in Uganda with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder using acupuncture for his Masters of Philosophy at the Harvard School of Public Health.
The health ministry recognises alternative medicine under the Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory, which is basically herbal research. It is only recently that the Government embarked on a programme to bring together all practitioners of traditional and complimentary medicine and integrate them under the health ministry.
Acupuncture: Needle pricks to relieve pain?