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Acupuncture without needles

Most allopaths treat alternative medicine with disdain. Dr Ravindra Shirodkar is different. He practises both homoeopathy and acupuncture in addition to allopathy.

Like any other doctor trained in western medicine, Dr Ravindra Shirodkar stuck at first to the mainstream. He did his MBBS in 1973 (from Goa) and set up practice in Marol the very next year. It was more than a decade later that he got interested in alternative systems of medicine.

This was in 1985, when he did a basic course in homoeopathy at the Subodh Medical Centre at Khar. Then, in 1990, he learnt acupuncture under a Dr Toliya at the International Academy of Scientific Acupuncture, Dadar. Dr Toliya used to be an allopath himself and the course was open only to doctors with an MBBS degree.

Shortly afterwards, during a trip to Singapore, Dr Shirodkar picked up an electronic acupuncture machine. In traditional acupuncture, a doctor inserts needles into a patientís body and manipulates them. The electronic acupuncture machine works in a similar manner, except that it generates electrical impulses which are applied to the body.

One of his first successful treatments using electronic acupuncture was on a Mr Wagle, who is a bank manager with Sangli Bank (not at the Marol branch). Wagle was hurt in a road accident as a result of which his right hand was paralysed and he was even unable to sign. He visited many physicians and neurosurgeons but there was no improvement. Since Dr Shirodkar knew him well, he offered to treat him. After the very first sitting, Wagle's right hand regained a degree of sensation and after 15 sittings he was "80% cured", says Dr Shirodkar.

Acupuncture, the system of medicine responsible for his cure, is said to be at least 5,000 years old. According to ancient Chinese theories, the body has an energy force known as Qi (roughly pronounced as Chee) running through it. Qi is comprised of two parts, Yin and Yang. These are opposite forces that, when balanced, work together. Qi travels throughout the body along "meridians" or special pathways. The acupuncture points are specific locations where the meridians come to the surface of the body. When pathways become obstructed, deficient or excessive, Yin and Yang are said to be thrown out of balance. This causes illness. Acupuncture is said to restore the balance.

This theory may seem to be the stuff of quackery. But whatever one feels about the theory, acupuncture does seem to work in at least some cases. In China it is often used to anaesthetise patients during surgery.

Dr Shirodkar narrates other instances where he successfully used acupuncture. One patient was Mrs Philomena Soares, who suffers from severe diabetes. Her foot became gangrenous and doctors advised that it be amputated. Since Dr Shirodkar was the family doctor he intervened and offered to try electronic acupuncture. Within 10 sittings the supply of blood to the foot recovered and the wound healed. Her foot was saved from amputation. We met Mrs Soares (who now lives at Bhawani Nagar) and she corroborated the story.

Mumbai 59 described another case in its previous issue. This was Sampat Shetty, whose finger became gangrenous after a bite by a pit viper. The doctors advised amputation, but after 10 sittings the finger regained sensation and was saved. The sceptics may want to know that in a previous case, Shetty's finger developed gangrene and he was advised amputation at the same government hospital. But on that occasion it was a regular surgeon who saved his finger.

Other patients mentioned by Dr Shirodkar include a police writer (someone who records details in police cases) named Padmakar Desai. After his hand was paralysed, he was unable to write but was cured by electronic acupuncture treatment.

Apart from electronic acupuncture, Dr Shirodkar also practises needle acupuncture which he has used to treat cervical spondylitis, frozen shoulders, migraine, sciatica, paralysis, irritable bowel syndrome and several other such diseases.

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