NEW: Traditional Chinese acupuncture offers medical alternative to Zimbabweans

The Sunday Mail

TO many people, the mere thought of a needle is enough to send shivers down their backs.

But Melba Mafika remained calm as an acupuncturist inserted thin needles into her back at the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) unit of Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.

Like many patients who braved the thin acupuncture needles for the first time, she said the procedure was fairly painless, but she felt a slight tingling sensation during insertion.

“I don’t mind having the needles,” she told Xinhua after an acupuncture session. “I just feel a bit of discomfort when they are inserted, but after that it becomes OK.”

After experiencing side effects from conventional medication following a car accident, Mafika quickly made up her mind to try acupuncture when she heard about it from colleagues.

“The reason why I decided to come here is because I have been having some bad side effects with medication. If I take my pain medication I feel drowsy. Sometimes I can’t work properly, so I needed something that can relieve my pain whilst I can still manage to go about with my day to day duties,” she said.

Having undergone several medical procedures following the accident in 2004, Mafika was delighted to find another alternative option free of charge.

“I have had quite a number of scans and tests done until they concluded that I have to manage the pain because some of my nerves were damaged in the accident,” said Mafika.

Acupuncture is a component of TCM which involves inserting extremely thin needles along specific points of the body to stimulate sensory nerves in the skin and muscles. It can help relieve pain and treat a wide range of medical complications.

TCM is an ancient, holistic system of health and wellness that has been used in China for thousands of years. It encompasses several therapeutic methods that include acupuncture, cupping, Chinese herbs, Tai Chi among others.

Mafika is among thousands of patients who have since received medical attention at the TCM clinic at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.

The Zimbabwe-China Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Center was established in 2020 as part of efforts to offer Zimbabweans affordable medical treatment.

Forty-two year old Sandra Tariro Ndoro, a patient who sustained knee, hip and back injuries after a fall, also heard about the clinic from colleagues.

“I decided to seek medical assistance here because a colleague came here and got well. He also recommended his supervisor to seek medical attention here and he also got well,” she said.

“Since I started acupuncture treatment, I am witnessing a huge change. The pain I felt under my feet and on my knee has subsided,” said Sipelile Chitate, another patient who had come for her third acupuncture session.

Zhu Wei, a TCM doctor at the center, said the ancient knowledge system is proving to be a viable medical alternative for locals.
“It can be used in different fields, different specialties like in the bone system. We can treat different pain like neck pain, low back pain and arthritis, headache etc. It can also be applied in the digestive system, neurological system and vascular system,” said Zhu.

“In Chinese medicine we can diagnose a disease by inspection, inquiry, palpation and auscultation. So for those people who cannot afford to take the scan can benefit from traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. After we diagnose the patient, we can use acupuncture and Chinese cupping to cure them,” he added.

To meet growing demand for Chinese medicine in Zimbabwe, in July the TCM center started offering acupuncture training to local health personnel.

Richard Mutingwende, a natural therapist specializing in homeopathy who participated in the training sessions, said TCM offers many benefits.

“I have referred so many patients here at this center for treatment. Within a few weeks, or within a few sessions they will quickly recover even after a very long period of suffering with a chronic conditions such as spinal injuries, issues such as strokes,” he said.

“We are talking of a system which embraces what we call a holistic approach. The system is non-invasive. It means it’s safe, it doesn’t have any side effects and it’s affordable, so I decided to study acupuncture so that I can add it to my practice as a homeopathic practitioner,” he added.

Traditional knowledge systems and medicines play an important role as affordable source of treatment in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe and China share a long history of cooperation in the health sector. Since 1985, China has dispatched 18 medical teams to the southern African country. – Xinhua

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