Needle Healing

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

The Chinese, the good, old wise folk from the Orient, have created a perestroika of sorts. They have begun to use acupuncture treatment to cure stroke victims, among other conditions.

The big question. What makes needle therapy so unique, effective and, sometimes, an awe to modern scientific thought?

Wait a moment.

Acupuncture is best described as a go-between orthodox and fringe medicine. A method which, till recently, had developed in isolation from Western ideas. Not anymore.

All the same, the system is much more than just needles. It is a complicated blend of diets and other measures — of which the customary definition of acupuncture forms but only a part.

Channel Effect

Based on a principle that an inseparable element of life-force called ch’i is flowing through the human body, along a series of a dozen channels, or meridians, acupuncture proponents believe that alongside these meridians lie over 700 points, at which the flow of the life-force can be influenced by the therapist’s needles. Theorists also say that the cause of sickness is due to an imbalance in the flow of the life-force along the channels.

The most amazing part is that the needles, for therapy, are inserted in the underlying tissues and/or skin of the patient, having no relationship whatsoever to the area in which the illness, or pain, is located, or felt.

For example, needles maybe inserted in the lobe of the ear, during an operative procedure in the abdomen; or, they may be placed in the forearm, when the neck would be the site for surgery.

Anaesthesia is also induced in the same way. Once in place, the needles are twirled. In modern acupuncture practice, manual twirling has been replaced by electric current from wires joined to a circuit, or battery.

Critics say there is no basis for justifying such theories, because the channels do not appear to exist. Also, the existence of structures, at the acupuncture points, that give rise to changes anywhere in the body when stimulated by needles, they argue, cannot be demonstrated. This is another story.


The fact remains that the method has been found to produce some interesting changes in the body at the basic physical level, because some of the foremost points correspond to areas representing a positive response — or, what is known as Kirlian Photography. This is a form of photogram made with high voltage, which now finds favour in detecting illnesses like cancer. The idea is also said to aid psychiatrists, when an object to be photographed is kept sandwiched between two metal plates, lodged against a sheet of colour film. Specialists in the field say that Kirlian photography depicts the body’s ‘aura,’ or the so-called ‘human energy field,’ which is not ordinarily perceptible.

A typical electrical potential without a camera is applied between existing metal plates, oscillating at a phenomenal speed of over 200,000 cycles per second. When the film is developed, an image of the object appears, bordered by dazzling plumes of coloured lights and small twinkling patterns like stars — a fascinating exposition of electrical fields around the living body. Yet again, sceptics do not agree with its ‘scientificity.’ Well, that’s fine — no problem.

Effective Pain Relief

Acupuncture as a standalone treatment for all illnesses has not been still accepted. In China too, it is not as widely used as maybe the popular opinion. But, its use in the treatment of pain caused by illnesses like arthritis, or after surgery, has been valued and appreciated worldwide. This is not all. Western researchers and surgeons have witnessed procedures carried out under acupuncture-induced anaesthesia, where patients were able to even converse, eat and drink, during surgery — this includes some of the most complicated brain surgeries.

How does acupuncture work? No one knows for sure, although it is thought that the twirling of the needle/current passed through, or along the channels may produce an interference of a typical sort with the normal passage of nerve impulses. This could convey a message to the brain, or the central nervous system [CNS] — thus, pain, for example, may no longer be felt.

Growing Acceptance

Acupuncture has sure gained acceptance as an auxiliary treatment in other schools of medicine, in the West, most notably modern medicine and homeopathy.

Coming back to stroke, reports from China say paralytic patients were able to stand up and walk more than 20 steps, after undergoing acupuncture therapy pioneered by Prof Wang Duany, attached to the Beijing College of Acupuncture. This ground-breaking needle treatment for stroke is the result of Prof Wang’s three decades of clinical and teaching experience in traditional Chinese medicine. Says Prof Wang, “The effectiveness of this form of therapy is almost 95 per cent.”

Adds Prof Wang: “From clinical observation, people who have been debilitated by strokes for up to six months, and especially those who have only had the problem for three months, can make excellent progress. Those who have suffered longer than six months gain little benefit from the treatment. They may need the aid of sticks to walk.”

During the course of his treatment, Wang uses two needles, most commonly a needle that has a length of 5.5 cm. It takes 15-30 minutes for Wang to complete one session of treatment, in the course of which he also gives patients other instructions, ordering them to breathe-in deeply and stretch their paralysed limbs.

The extent of the problem decides the number of sessions. The needles may remain in the patient’s head for two hours, or two days, without affecting their normal life.

Patients, bogged down by acute strokes, may need treatment on a daily basis for over a week or two, says Wang.

Wang’s success with needles for stroke has aroused great interest for sure. What’s more, its cumulative benefits are now being intensely studied worldwide — to help patients manage their health problems with better effect.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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