Acupuncture and acupressure are two non-drug therapies which are making their presence felt in the complementary medicine scene. And acupressure and reflexology are getting the crowds because of ease of practice. But how do these gentle systems work?
Acupuncture can treat acute sickness too - Dr Ravinder TuliBy Parveen Chopra
The introduction of acupuncture in the world in recent times is a fascinating story. Delhi-based Dr Ravinder K. Tuli, the leading acupuncturist in the country, recounts that during World War II when the Red Army was fighting the Imperial army, there was an outbreak of malaria. Though quinine was around, Mao Tse Tung was informed about the efficacy of acupuncture in treating, curing and preventing malaria. Indeed, when tried, it proved as effective as quinine. Gradually, the Red Army started using acupuncture in varied conditions. Later in 1949, when Mao took over the reins in China, one of his first pronouncements in the Red Book was that while they should modernize, they should also adopt, develop and popularize traditional Chinese medicine, of which herbal practice and acupuncture are two parts. And when the barefoot doctors concept was formulated to take medicare to grassroot levels, basic training in both the use of herbs and acupuncture was provided to them.
The second episode relates to President Nixon's ice-breaking visit to China in 1971. James Reston, senior editor of The New York Times, who was in his entourage, developed acute abdominal pain which was diagnosed as appendicitis. A surgical team specially summoned from the USA removed the appendix, but the pain did not disappear. Eventually, they accepted their Chinese hosts' offer of trying acupuncture and the relief was immediate. The incident made headline news in America. Acupuncture prominently figured in the MoUs signed between the two countries, and a department was set up in George Washington University to understand the practice. Today, acupuncture education and practice is fairly developed throughout the USA.
An MD doctor who has worked for the Indian Air Force and who has learnt acupuncture in China and Sri Lanka, Dr Tuli has been practising the system since 1977. He also uses acupressure, yoga, nature cure, reiki, pranic healing, etc.
He is at pains to explode the myth that alternative systems are good only for treating chronic cases. He relates the story of how once when he went trekking to Gaumukh, India, he found a person in his rest house suffering from acute mountain sickness (breathing problem due to water in the lungs) caused by lack of acclimatization at high altitudes. Dr Tuli volunteered his services. But since he did not have access to even acupuncture needles, he employed acupressure and within minutes the patient was up on his feet.
He cites various other cases such as asthma attacks, where he could provide instant relief. Dr Tuli has also successfully treated a curious mix of emergencies, ranging from an actor losing his voice on the eve of a performance to a racehorse coming down with an attack of nerve paralysis just before a race. He has also treated a few pets. ''Acupuncture is a complete and versatile system that can treat any ailment, complementing any other system,'' Dr Tuli says confidently.
With his wife, Dr Poonam Tuli, and two junior doctors assisting him in his clinic in the upscale Friends Colony, his practice is flourishing. His grateful clientele includes diplomats, industrialists, politicians, sportspeople and artistes. Yet, he feels that acceptance of acupuncture is slow in the medical community. At the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in Delhi, India, where Dr Tuli is a consultant, referrals are often totally burnt-out cases.
Dr Tuli refers to acupuncture as a spiritual practice because it is a holistic (meaning wholesome) system that creates harmony in the mind, body and spirit. Test cricketer Nikhil Chopra visited Dr Tuli for a shoulder problem. Not only was the cricketer cured, but he also wrote in Tuli's visitors book: ''It was a great spiritual experience, I felt a sense of well-being.'' Veera Hirano, a Britisher who works for the WHO, believes that her level of meditation took a leap after taking acupuncture sessions with Dr Tuli.
One reason for the slow acceptance of acupuncture in India, says DrTuli, could be the fear that the use of needles exposes one to diseases like hepatitis and AIDS. ''We either use disposable or sterilized needles,'' he assures.
Dr Tuli informs that the Acupuncture Association of India (AAI), Kolkata, is the apex body in the country since it is the only organization affiliated with the World Federation of Acupuncture Societies, based in China. AAI offers one year's acupuncture training to doctors qualified in any system of medicine.
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