‘Hijama Therapy’: The cups of cure

Published: July 5, 2013
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There is a dire need of regulation to make it standardised in recognised hospitals to ensure Hijama's effectiveness. PHOTO: SANA UROOJ

‘Hijama’ is derived from the word ‘hajm’ which means ‘sucking’. Cupping or Hijama is the process of applying cups at various points on the body to create a vacuum and then to suck the impure or harmful blood through the slightly incised skin surface. There are various, specific points on the body for cupping where the skin is pierced and then cups are applied to collect blood.

Although often associated with traditional Chinese medicine, even the Egyptians and Greek used this therapy.

Hijama therapy is effective in treating many conditions including digestive problems, joint and muscle pain, asthma, sciatica, fever, skin problems, low fertility and so on. It improves blood circulation, reduces accumulation of blood and lymph, and maintains a balance of the body’s systems.

Being a health manager, I was intrigued to explore the underlying reasons behind the success of this ancient art of Hijama also known as ‘cupping therapy’. I also wanted to know why it seems to have been forgotten despite its miraculous therapeutic effects.

Moreover, I asked the general public about their knowledge of Hijama – many knew of it as a Sunnah, a few claimed it to be a new therapy still being introduced and a few did not know about it at all. This made me realise that there is a niche that still needs to be enlightened.

My research led me to meet a few people who had undergone this therapy and were hence, miraculously relieved from their illnesses. This made me wonder about the psychological impact this therapy has on patients who got instant relief from their pain. Were they satisfied because it is well endorsed? Or perhaps because it was a new procedure?

While interviewing a colleague who had undergone Hijama therapy and who is a doctor himself, I came to know that he ‘felt better’ just after a single visit to the therapist, which further added to my suspicion about the psychological effectiveness of Hijama therapy.

Due to the shift in the paradigm of health awareness, patients are now becoming decision makers of their own treatment and disease perception.

One elder female patient outside a local OPD clinic said,

“I see my doctor for my diabetes, but I also get Hijama done once every year as there is a ‘holy cure’ to it; it is very effective, plus it is also curative for black magic.”

She further emphasised the effectiveness of Hijama therapy by saying that it purifies the mind and soul.

While interviewing a neighbour, it was interesting to note that she had been visiting two separate Hijama practitioners, one being a doctor and the other being just popular for her spirituality. She visited them simultaneously and claimed that she was equally satisfied with both.

However, the people who want to get Hijama therapy done face difficulty in finding an authorised practitioner as most of the therapists currently practicing Hijama do not have the necessary credentials to practice. The irony of the situation is that there are many quacks practicing, with only a few licensed practitioners available.

Online training/certificate courses are also being offered which raises a question on the safety of the practice.

From a health management perspective, a question does rise about the sterility of equipments used and the reliability of procedures. Even considering the fact that the cups are thrown out, it is a concern for many potential patients where and how the cups and the removed blood is discarded.

In fact, one of my relatives was concerned about the sterility of the cups used when she was choosing where to go for Hijama therapy. Apparently, this is quite a troublesome yet common decision that potential patients face.

A large number of patient-flow in our culture adheres to traditional and spiritual methods. The robust pool of information and marketing streaming in from media, social websites, TV programs, word-of-mouth add to the fervour.

In my opinion, when such a valuable asset such as ‘health’ is at stake, there should be no risks taken. Though, I have not yet experienced Hijama therapy myself, I have personally interviewed several patients with fruitful results and I strongly believe in its efficacy. That said, if used on standardised grounds, it could prove to be beneficial for many potential patients.

However, there is a dire need for some sort of regulation to make Hijama therapy standardised in recognised hospitals to ensure its effectiveness. It is important to break the demarcation and create an ethical understanding between medical and alternative treatments in our culture.

So whether these ‘cups of cure’ quench the thirsty satisfaction of patient’s psychology, especially in today’s pill-popping society or the other way round, the mystical macrocosm of wonders existent within the world of Hijama are yet to be explored and endorsed further.

Sana Urooj

Sana Urooj

Is currently pursuing her MBA from IoBM. She is also working as a Physical Therapist.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.