In this article, I discussed a few real-life examples of medical treatments based on acupressure and Qigong. Their results are difficult to understand from a traditional western medical point of view, and could often be dismissed as myth, and not reality.
About 16 years ago I injured my left little finger while I was playing goalie in a soccer game. When I dove to block a shot at goal, I landed on that finger in an awkward way and damaged its tendons. That finger was swollen right away and I felt a lot of pain. I left the game and went home. Since the finger did not improve after a night’s rest, the next day I went to see my orthopedic surgeon, who after examination referred me to see a specialist orthopedic surgeon who specializes in treating hand injuries. So I immediately made an appointment and went to see that hand specialist orthopedic surgeon who put a splint on my finger and treated me with physical therapy on a weekly basis for six months.
At the end of six months, he told me that he was finished treating me, even though when I closed my left hand, my little finger could not close completely and left a gap of about one-third of an inch from touching my palm. Another six months passed, or a year after the injury, a friend mentioned to me about a Chinese woman doctor, Dr. Su, in the East Brunswick area. Having nothing to lose, I went to see her. While in China, Dr. Su was trained both in western medicine and in Chinese medicine, which included acupuncture treatment and acupressure treatment, and had worked in China as both a western doctor and a Chinese doctor. Since immigrated to the U.S., she only practiced Chinese medicine, and in particular, at that time only acupressure and herbal medicine.
Dr. Su treated me once per week with acupressure, during which she used her hands and fingers to apply pressure and massage my little left finger. Each treatment lasted 30-40 minutes. During each treatment, I felt some pain when she was pressing on my little finger. However, the finger felt better after each treatment, and it was able to bend a little closer to the palm. As a matter of fact, the more pain I felt during the treatment, the more the improvement afterward. After six such treatments, my little left finger could close completely and touch my palm. Because these treatments didn’t start until a year after the injury, Dr. Su said that she couldn’t cure me completely, and that finger is permanently slightly curved. Dr. Su told me that the difference between her treatment and the traditional western doctor’s treatment is that the latter would put a splint on my finger right away (which was exactly what my specialist orthopedic surgeon did), but if she were treating me from the very beginning, she would first massage and try to move my damaged tendons back to their original positions before putting a splint on.
My regular orthopedic surgeon was an experienced orthopedic surgeon and supposed to be part of a reputable orthopedic surgeon practice, since one of his senior partners was once the orthopedic surgeon for a major New York professional sports team. So the specialist orthopedic surgeon that he referred me to should also be a quality specialist. Being a Chinese American and having lived in both China/Hong Kong and the U.S., I of course had experience with Chinese medicine before, but I never really believed in Chinese medicine and had always thought that western medicine is better and will replace Chinese medicine completely with time.
Several years passed, I started learning Taiji, as well as a couple of other Chinese internal martial arts. Almost every style of Chinese martial arts, especially Chinese internal martial arts, has Qigong (which literally means “doing work with the breath”) as part of its advanced training to achieve the following martial arts/health objectives:
- Regulate one’s breathing to relax body and mind and improve one’s health
- Increase the power of one’s strikes
- Focus one’s Qi (energy) when attacking certain vital points (usually associated with acupuncture points)
- Increase one’s ability to absorb hits
- Apply it to heal various illnesses or injuries.
Qigong was also another Chinese practice that I have heard of all through my life. Except for a short course that I took about 14-15 years ago, I never really had practiced Qigong and never really understood or believed in it.
As I practice Taiji more seriously and more often, I began to go beyond “natural breathing” during my Taiji practice and started practicing breathing as in Qigong. Qigong, like Yoga, emphasizes breathing from the lower abdomen, instead of from the chest. Yoga uses natural abdominal breathing, and Qigong in Chinese martial arts often uses reverse abdominal breathing. For an explanation of the difference, see my earlier article “Breathing and Taijiquan”. I also began to read and study more about Qigong. When you breathe from the lower abdomen, you are actually massaging your internal organs. That is like doing exercises with your internal organs. Doing exercises with your muscles can improve your muscle tones and give rise to a healthier body. Similarly, doing exercises with your internal organs via Qigong can improve the health of your internal organs and therefore may cure certain problems in your internal organs. In addition, when you become an experienced Qigong practitioner (which I am not), you can direct Qi (or energy) to your internal organs as well as to other parts of your body. Such energy can supposedly also help to cure problems with your internal organs and result in better health.
We know of a Qigong health healing specialist in New York. She uses Qigong to cure all kinds of ailments (not only aches and pains) of various patients. We know of many people (both Chinese and Caucasians) who have gone to see her and claimed success. For example, an elderly Caucasian friend was complaining of pain in her knee. Her orthopedic surgeon told her that she needed surgery, although the specific surgery needed can’t be determined until they are operating on her knee. Hesitating to have surgery, she went to see this Qigong specialist. After several treatments, she no longer had pain in her knee, and her knee hasn’t bothered her for several years now.
Last year a friend in Hong Kong has leukemia. This is a friend that I know well and a former colleague when both of us were working as expatriates for Motorola in Beijing. He went through the traditional western medical treatment of chemotherapy. Two months after he finished chemotherapy, he also started learning and practicing Qigong from a well-known Qigong specialist in Hong Kong who specializes in treating cancer. Although it is still too early to come to any conclusion, my friend believes that Qigong has helped him in his recovery from leukemia, and he has been able to return to work, at least part time, including doing international travel. As a matter of fact, he believes in it so much that he is following the instruction of practicing Qigong for about three hours everyday (yes, three hours). Of course, the results of this example are too tentative and may be just an isolated incident, and will require substantial more research before any conclusion can be drawn from it.
My finger injury treatment experience and these Qigong treatment experiences by several friends that I can trust have definitely cast a different perspective on my view of traditional Chinese medicine and other Chinese healing methods. I was always skeptical of such claims. Although I still am to a certain extent and I believe that some of the claims by Qigong healers are exaggerated or false, it wouldn’t surprise me if 50-100 years from now, there will be definitive scientific evidence that there are legitimate healing powers from these ancient healing methods, that they are not just myths, but part of reality.