In China, acupuncture is practised as much as conventional medicine. “In hospitals, they ask you to make the choice between drugs and acupuncture and most people choose acupuncture,” said Dr Xiao Ping Liu. Liu was born in China and studied western (conventional) medicine and traditional medicine there. In 1990 she moved to T&T and now practices acupuncture here. Liu is a member of the British Acupuncturist Society and the Chinese Acupuncturist Society. “I had very little interest in traditional Chinese medicine when I was studying.” She said the Chinese Government said if you studied western medicine you also had to study acupuncture, so it was a part of the curriculum. “Long ago acupuncture was learned through experience. You could only learn acupuncture from acupuncture masters and it was like a family business, so a grandfather would teach his son who would then teach his son,” Liu explained.
She said the healing technique was used only for members of royal families and the very wealthy in China. “Because of that it was kept secret, but it is thousands of years old.” “In the beginning, I didn’t like acupuncture. I thought the idea of using needles was not good.” However, there were times when she found herself unable to help patients and had to refer them to an acupuncturist. Eventually Liu decided to learn the technique. She first learnt acupuncture using herbs and acupressure points on the ear only. Later she learnt how to use needles on the entire body. Even now Liu goes to China often to learn about new acupuncture research. She said acupuncture was used most and best to treat pains. “We use acupuncture to treat arthritis, back pain, nerve problems. Any type of pain, acupuncture can treat.” She explained that acupuncture points on the body connected on meridians to nerves and blood vessels. Liu said a lot of her patients took pain-killers but after a while the pain-killers might stop working, so they looked for alternatives and would discover acupuncture.
“Some people don’t want to take pain killers or other medication, but their is a choice,” she said. “This morning I had a client, she was in pain for about three months, intense stomach pains and the drugs the doctor prescribed were not working. Somebody recommended me to her. When she came I put two needles in her hand and ten minutes later the pain was gone. “It was a muscle spasm and pain killers cannot relax muscle but putting the needle at the pressure point on her hand that connects to her stomach, that works.” She said if a patient had a headache, it wouldn’t matter why or what caused the headache, putting the acupressure needle in the precise point on the hand would relieve it. Liu warned that acupuncture was not always immediate and could sometimes take a lot of sessions before working. She said, however, that a significant number of her patients were athletes and treatment for them was usually quick depending on the nature of their injuries. She said in China, acupuncture is used in open heart surgeries, Caesarian sections and other major medical procedures. “People there trust and believe in acupuncture, especially because it is a treatment that has no side effects at all.”
Despite the fact that I had no pain complaints, Liu volunteered to give me a short acupuncture session. She placed a needle between my thumb and index finger, the pain was mild, like an insect bite but I did feel a building pressure on the spot. The pressure was not unpleasant. She then placed another needle on a point on my forearm. This one did not hurt at all. “Because hands and feet are sensitive, you will feel it there but if I had placed needles on your back or stomach, you wouldn’t feel a thing.” Liu explained. She said people also used acupuncture as a weight-loss tool, using the acupuncture points to help balance the system and increase metabolism. “Some people use it for beauty, to remove age lines from their face.” She also demonstrated a Chinese cupping massage, which put me to sleep in a matter of minutes .Liu said acupuncture, which started as a treatment for a select few in China, is now worldwide. She hopes one day in Trinidad, just like in China, doctors would learn both conventional medicine and traditional medicine to provide patients with a choice.