Have you ever scratched one part of your body and felt a twinge in another part? Everybody has, but few notice it. When I was a teenager I was puzzled that if my left back itched and I scratched it, I would feel a twinge on the side of my right arm! That was quite a mystery because I knew from my mother’s nursing book that there was no direct nerve connection between these body parts. Back in those days if I had a G.P, I would experience that romantic longing at the lower part of my inner left knee. What was that all about?
Acupuncture is based on over 5000 years of observation. The ancient Chinese documented that a soldier surviving a shot with an arrow may recover from some chronic disease like migraine headaches. So they started sticking needles in that point and were able to get the same results. They came up with the theory that the human body had certain energy channels called meridians connecting different parts. Pricking specific locations stimulated the flow of life force (Chi) to cause healing. Over the centuries, hundreds of points over the body became associated with particular disease conditions. Yet, for the most part, the rest of the world considered it nothing more than mind-over-matter, superstitious voodoo.
I had always been fascinated with acupuncture. During my medical and surgical practice in Ohio I had to refer several chronic pain back patients to neurosurgeons. Some of the most complicated patients would come back with reports that the specialist declined to operate again, rather recommended acupuncture instead. Since I had trouble finding trained acupuncturists in Ohio I decided to go to San Francisco to study it to myself.
I trained at a world-renowned program associated with Stanford University. In my book Mannafast Miracle, I explain how the Western world first became interested in this ancient art following President Nixon’s breakthrough visit to China in 1972. James Reston, a famous New York Times reporter covering the trip, required an emergency appendectomy in Beijing. Acupuncture anesthesia is used. He remained awake throughout of the operation and actually watched the doctor reach into his belly and cut out his appendix. Reston was blown away! On his return home, he wrote a powerful article in America’s leading newspaper on acupuncture’s amazing pain relief capabilities. This prompted the Federal Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health to investigate. They eventually approved its effectiveness in treating a wide range of illnesses which insurance companies reimburse.
The biggest problem with acupuncture is the almost universal fear of the word needle. That is perfectly normal. When a phlebotomist approaches me with that rigid needle, I try to be pleasant and joking. After all, I wouldn’t want her more tense, especially if she already knows it’s a doctor she is going to work on. But to be honest with you, all the time my toes are curled tightly in my shoes. I’m praying fervently that she is experienced and will need to take only one shot! In our acupuncture training, almost all the doctors whined like babies when we had to practice on each other – at first.
That is because acupuncture needles are different. They are not hollow for drawing blood or injecting medicine or IV fluids. They are therefore extremely thin and flexible – like a cat’s whisker – so thin in fact, they do not bleed like after a blood test. There is never a need to place a cotton ball and Band-Aid. Wherever I give presentations, like at the recent Fete Lautbor health seminar at Goodwill Secondary, everyone wanted to try it. They all agreed they hardly felt anything. Acupuncture is not magic yet, the benefits can be impressive and the risk is next to nothing.
None of us are here forever. We all want to go to heaven, but we would rather hang around down here as long as we can, enjoying that abundant life. To stay well, acupuncture is best used as complementary, that is, in support of the traditional proven treatments such as medication, surgery, radiation and various forms of therapy. Dominica has benefited much from Chinese wisdom. Medical conditions which are not improving may now probably benefit from this intriguing treatment from the East.
Dr. Sam Christian is specialist surgeon, speaker and author. He recently opened a Dominica practice.