By Sana Panjwani


Acupuncture is an ancient form of healing, going back a staggering 8,000 years. It uses fine needles inserted at specific points – known as acupoints – in the body to treat various physical and mental ailments. Its roots lie in Chinese medicine from where its popularity and use ebbed and flowed with passing generations, spreading across the world. And because its theory and practice isn't fully based on science, there are many who dismiss the field as a pseudoscience, but acupuncture still stands tall with countless medical cases being solved under needle therapy. In fact, the belief in acupuncture has spread so far and wide since the fifties that practically every major city around the world houses at least one dedicated centre. OL met Dr Hu Qiwen, an acupuncturist at Gulf Chinese Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi.


"Acupuncture is largely used for pain relief, and in such cases we've found it to have a long-term effect as opposed to painkillers which only give relief for a couple of hours,” explained the Chinese medical man, who holds close to three decades of experience as an acupuncturist.

"This has also shown to be helpful in cases of gastronomic issues, insomnia, and headaches too," he added.

The acupuncture needles used are extremely fine, measuring about the thickness of two human hairs. They also come prepackaged, and are sterile and disposable – all to reduce the risk of infection, explained Dr Qiwen.

His journey in medicine started off as a doctor of western medicine, including time as a General Practitioner in the UAE, until his history of family illnesses, including high blood pressure, caught up to him.

“I tried many medications, all kinds of blockers but I was surprised to find that they weren't having their intended effect,” said Dr Qiwen.

“Then I turned to traditional remedies and found acupuncture which has been far more effective in its treatment.”

The methods behind the treatment vary from region to region, however one of the most important skills to possess in this area, according to Dr Qiwen, is mastery of hand manipulation.

“The human body has over 300 acupoints and 14 energy channels. Knowing how to and when to pin a specific point and with what pressure is a key element.”

Its focus lies on energy circulation, and is largely used for prevention purposes as Dr Qiwen states that by keeping the energy in balance, you're likely to keep illnesses at bay.

Another advantage is that natural treatments like these hold little to no side effects and can even help reduce dependency on medications, he added.

However, it also typically involves several follow-up sessions and can be costly and is often not covered in a person’s health insurance. Also, results are never guaranteed which can lead people to think that they wasted their time and money on nothing.

“It is still an important first step towards prevention, or even treatment,” explained Dr Qiwen, “because it is not about one versus the other.

“It's about trying natural remedies before committing to chemical ones which definitely carry a higher risk of side effects.”


Acupuncture is a field met with much debate, with countless experts constantly emphasising its lack of scientific evidence. However, there are just as many counts of people swearing by its effects, a fact which cannot be ignored.

There was once a British woman, recounted Dr Qiwen, on holiday in Abu Dhabi from the UK who stopped by for a trial treatment after recommendation from her doctors back home.

She was soon going to be partaking in IVF therapy to treat infertility but after her acupuncture sessions, not only did she fall into natural pregnancy once, but twice.

“This isn't the first case I've come across where Chinese medicine was more effective than modern but it goes to show that both are solutions, with effects differentiating from people to people.

“What might not work on one, may work on another,” said Dr Qiwen.

Natural treatments don't get as much credence as conventional, and this is something which needs to be addressed. It's been proven time and again that these remedies have their own benefits, advantages which ought to be reaped if possible before moving on to harsher methods concerning chemical medications.

“Not all doctors carry the same morals. Some don't particularly care for their patients as long as they are making money, so we need to make sure that a readily-available, alternative treatment is available for all those who seek it,” added Dr Qiwen.

For those considering trying a different kind of treatment, he works at the Gulf Medical Chinese Centre where his team offer natural, therapeutic treatments including acupressure and Thai cup massages as well as their most popular service, acupuncture.