Rinzin Wangchuk

Not getting rid of the pain in his leg after over a month of treatment, a 66-year-old farmer from Kabisa, Punakha, turned to traditional medicine. The farmer heard about the traditional medicine hospital in Thimphu and decided to switch from modern to traditional healing.

Unable to walk, he is receiving treatment at the hospital. “I heard the hospital’s acupuncture therapy or kam-khab (dry needle) helps patients like me,” the farmer said. He was diagnosed with gout, a type of arthritis characterized by sudden attacks of severe pain and swelling.

Another young boy from Thimphu is being treated for suspected epilepsy. “With three days of therapy, my son’s health is improving,” his father said.

After its official introduction at the traditional hospital in 2018, kam-khab therapy became the most preferred and popular treatment among patients in the country, according to the medical superintendent of NTMH, Drungtsho Karma Gaylek.

From 2018 to 2022, the hospital treated 109,757 patients with ailments like migraine, joint pains, paralysis, and common nervous system disorders. The therapy saw a record number of 43,414 patients in 2021, followed by 17,156 patients in 2022.

Drungtsho Karma Gaylek stated that the therapy is commonly used to treat pain, with migraine being the most common condition followed by joint pains. The treatment is also reported to be effective in treating paralysis and stiffness.

A school teacher in Thimphu suffered from migraines for over three years after giving birth to her third child. Every time she experienced an attack, she would lock herself in a room, turn off the lights, and endure the pain. When it became unbearable, she would take a few painkillers and try to sleep.

After three sessions of acupuncture at the hospital, she has been cured. It has been two years since her last migraine attack. “I should have visited the hospital and sought treatment much earlier,” she said. “For me, the Drungtshos worked wonders.”

However, the hospital has experienced a gradual decrease in the number of patients visiting in recent months. According to Drungtsho Karma Gaylek, the hospital used to receive a minimum of 200 patients and a maximum of 300 patients per day in 2021 and 2022. “We are seeing fewer patients in recent months,” he said. “This could be attributed to the emigration.”

At the same time, the number of health workers at the hospital has also dropped to 11 Drungtshos and 21 menpas from 15 Drungtshos and 27 menpas over the last one year. Most of them resigned voluntarily and left for Australia.

This has left the hospital with a shortage of human resources. The hospital is expected to receive two Drungtshos this year.

Acupuncture, an ancient medical practice rooted in the principles of Traditional Chinese and Mongolian Medicine, involves inserting needles into specific points on the body to regulate organ functions, meridians, and the flow of energy known as qi and blood.