Acupuncture: An effective cure to common ailments

Last month, the Chinese government donated medicine and assorted hospital equipment to Masaka Hospital in Kicukiro District, which according to the director of the hospital, Marcel Uwineza, is an annual gesture.
Dr Kaxin uses acupuncture to treat a patient. The process involves inserting needles on the body. / Lydia Atieno.
Dr Kaxin uses acupuncture to treat a patient. The process involves inserting needles on the body. / Lydia Atieno.

Last month, the Chinese government donated medicine and assorted hospital equipment to Masaka Hospital in Kicukiro District, which according to the director of the hospital, Marcel Uwineza, is an annual gesture.

The equipment worth $40,000, is meant to help patients receive affordable treatment. Additionally, the hospital is also hosting Chinese medical doctors who offer specialised traditional Chinese medical treatment called acupuncture.


“This is a great opportunity for Rwandans to be able to access such kind of treatment, which has been proven to be effective, as well as low cost compared to other forms of treatments,” Uwineza says.


What’s acupuncture?


Acupuncture has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years. It involves stimulating specific points on the body. This is often done by inserting thin needles through the skin, to cause a change in the physical functions of the body.

Research has shown that acupuncture reduces nausea and vomiting after surgery and chemotherapy. It can also relieve pain. Researchers don’t fully understand how acupuncture works. It might aid the activity of your body’s pain-killing chemicals. It also might affect how you release chemicals that regulate blood pressure and flow.

Physicians also say acupuncture is useful in correcting problems of the neck, shoulders, nerve problems, fatigue, back pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic headache, among others.

Dr Kaxin examines a patient before carrying out acupuncture treatment. / Lydia Atieno.

According to Dr Zhang Kexin, an acupuncturist at Masaka Hospital, every human being has more than 360 pores on their body, with the heart and feet having more pores than other parts.

She says that it’s in these pores that the needles are inserted depending on the part of the body that needs treatment.

Kexin points out that because of the climate in Rwanda, a lot of people are having problems with joints due to coldness in the evening and heat during the day. This condition, she says is being corrected at the hospital using acupuncture.

According to Kexin, people who have a problem of adjusting to new environments always experience a lot of pain and discomfort, but with this treatment it can be fixed.

“The shock resulting from change in environment causes muscle pain, where acupuncture comes in to relieve the pain as well as correct the condition,” she says.

Kexin adds that acupuncture has proven to be more effective in treating such pains than modern medicine.

She notes that acupuncture can be used to treat different types of diseases, ranging from internal condtions, to pediatric, gynecologic ones, among others.

One of the advantages of acupuncture, Kexin says, is that it is better than other traditional medicines as it increases one’s immunity, relieves pain faster and cures diseases completely.

“Acupuncture can be used instead of surgery and carries fewer risks. It is easier to perform as well as less costly,” she adds.

Works well with other treatments

Celestine Karangwa, a physiotherapist at TCM Technology Clinic in Remera, Kigali, says many people who are under treatment for cancer also need acupuncture in addition to what they are being given.

“When a patient undergoes treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, there are side effects that come along such as vomiting and nausea. All these can go away if such patients go for acupuncture,” he says.

Karangwa, however cautions that because the treatment of cancer weakens the immune system of the body, the physician carrying out acupuncture on the patients should strictly use a clean needle procedure to avoid further complications.

Good for women and other problems

For those who are looking to stay young, Kexin says acupuncture treatment can ensure that. She explains that it works better for those with wrinkles on their face and other parts of the body as it can improve and make the wrinkles disappear with time.

She notes it can take three or more months to clear the wrinkles, adding that there are no side effects related to the treatment.

On the other hand, Jean Bosco Kanimba, a Kigali-based physiotherapist, points out that for women who have a problem of dysmenorrheal (painful menstruation cramps), acupuncture treatment can improve that.

Cupping is also used together along with acupuncture for effective treatment. / Lydia Atieno.

He notes that research has also proven that for women who are trying to get pregnant with the help of some fertility treatment, acupuncture treatment has been seen to help.

Kanimba explains that acupuncture can improve the success rates of treatment such as in-vitro fertilisation.

He says it is also good in alleviating anxiety and stress in those with fertility problems, as it improves the blood flow to the uterus, which increases chances of fertility.

“This kind of treatment doesn’t only treat but also helps in prevention of some diseases, which makes it more preferable than other treatments. What is required is only patience and consistence,” he says.

According to Janvier Rusizana, a general practitioner at La Nouvelle Clinic in Remera, Kigali, cases of migraine have been proven to improve with acupuncture treatment.

He explains that the responses that occur locally, for instance, at or close to the site of application, or at a distance, are mediated mainly by sensory neurons to many structures within the central nervous system.

“This can lead to activation of pathways affecting various physiological systems in the brain as well as in the periphery thus relieving head pains,” he says.

Rusizana notes that acupuncture has been proven to ensure good sleep as well.

He adds that it also improves the body’s function and promotes natural self healing unlike other treatment that requires medication and strict follow-ups.

Some early research has shown new information about the effectiveness of acupuncture on Parkinson’s. Studies show that it can relieve age-related cognitive decline symptoms as it generates a neural response in areas of the brain — such as the putamen and the thalamus — that are particularly affected by Parkinson’s disease.

A 2002 study done by the Department of Neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, showed that after 20 Parkinson’s patients were treated with acupuncture for 16 sessions, 85 per cent of patients reported subjective improvements of individual symptoms, including tremor, walking, handwriting, slowness, pain, sleep, depression and anxiety. There were no adverse effects


Karangwa says cupping therapy is usually used as part of acupuncture or body work treatment. It involves heating the air inside a glass cup, which removes some of the air from the cup.

Depending on the condition of the patient, they may require cupping and acupuncture at the same time, he says.

Karangwa explains that this is done by placing the cup on the skin, and the resulting vacuum pulls part of the skin into the cup. The cup may be left in place for several minutes and then removed, leaving behind a bright red, circular welt.

“The theory behind cupping is that it moves or stimulates the body’s natural energy,” he says.

Besides, Kanimba notes that there are other situations such as addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia and asthma where acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative, or be included in a comprehensive management programme.


Experts share tips

Daniel Gahungu, general practitioner

Those suffering from chronic pains can opt for acupuncture treatment instead of surgery or other procedures. Facial paralysis and other different kind of pains like nerve pain easily go away with acupuncture.


Iba Mayale, gynecologist

There are many discomforts related to pregnancy such as morning sickness, vomiting and nausea. Visiting a well-trained acupuncturist can help do away with this discomfort effectively.


Joseph Uwiragiye, nutritionist

Foods such as fatty fish, broccoli and those rich in vitamin C are essential when it comes to relieving joint pains which sometimes need treatment by acupuncture. However, consulting a physician before opting for acupuncture treatment is important.


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