‘Hijama Therapy': The cups of cure

They say Hijama therapy leaves your body and soul revitalised; is this purely psychological or does it actually work?

Sana Urooj July 05, 2013
‘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 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 necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Muhammad Amin | 8 years ago | Reply Dear all Why u r arguing about HIJAMA, if any one have any disease just call me, InshaaAllah he or she will cure. In HIJAMA we met many patients who declare LA EILAJ, and Allah give them SHIFA through HIJAMA. The Hijama Treatment practice not only in Pakistan it is working all over. I requested all call me or meet me 03122706668. JazakAllah
R | 8 years ago | Reply This blogpost made me realise the patheticity of the mindset of the so-called liberals of our society. Me and my whole family have been getting Cupping done since 2 years. I was forced to choose this as no doctor in the whole of karachi could help ease my migraine, if not get rid of it. I don't believe in the spirituality of the practitioner but just their medical knowledge. The lady i go to is herself a graduate of Aga Khan and practising Family Medicine, while her sister, also of the same qualification, practices as well. We've used three different practitioners so far and all of them have used sterile equipment, while the glasses used were rid of immediately. People are actually even allowed to bring their own equipment if they still feel paranoid. It has been proven as a Chinese medicine but dates back to Islamic history as well. The Chinese use leeches and even lice to draw out toxins in the blood. My migraine has reduced considerably, while my skin allergies have been at bay since I got it done for that as well. My uncle's sciatica was cured with this therapy as well and I feel that more people should be made aware about its benefits. Cupping therapy doesn't cure the disease fully, but atleast keeps the symptoms at bay, which can ease the pain of disease for many. And please don't bash me for calling me a middle class illiterate as I currently am myself a student of M.B.B.S and even my professors, who themselves are all medical practitioners, approved of this technique and even got it performed on themselves.
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