Sunday, November 27, 2016

Got pain that won’t quit? Come to Peru for the cure.

You’re in Peru. You’ve got pain that won’t go away. Maybe it’s in your shoulder, thigh, back, foot, or head and it hasn’t responded to the usual pain-killers. Before going to a doctor who will listen to you for 40 seconds and then write a prescription for pills, or tell you that your ailment is due to the seasonal change of climate and then write a prescription for pills, try a couple of the popular home remedies that most Peruvians swear by. One caution…don’t laugh at or denigrate these methods in front of a Peruvian. They take them very seriously. I know!

According to conventional wisdom your pain is probably from one of two sources. You have a buildup of positive ions which is hampering your blood flow (Peruvians don’t call it positive ions), or you have air in the affected area. The way to deal with built up ions is described in this US patent application number 11/458,686 applied for on July 20 2006:

"This invention discloses a method of treating pain using an elemental bar of sulfur passed over a painful area of the body to relieve the built up positive ions. The elemental sulfur interacts with the painful part of the body and crackles as the surface crystals of the sulfur become ionized or change form. The charge that builds up in the sulfur shorts the inflammation signal and resets the gain of the nervous system. This in turn leads to a faster recovery process."

Sounds like voodoo…right? A few years back I had a lingering headache. Maribel bought a bar and insisted that I allow her to rub it on my head. Within seconds I heard the crackling noise mentioned in the above patent application. Within minutes the headache was gone. Now, I doubt if there is anyone in this world more skeptical than me. I don’t believe in any of the alternative medicines including chiropractic, acupuncture, or the hundreds of supplements in health stores which have never been proven by clinical experiment. But I do know my headache stopped. And a few months later it happened again, with the same results. And I still don’t believe it was the Sulphur bar that did it. These days when I get a minor headache or pain I always forget to try the bar. Maybe a third time would convince me.

The method to get rid of the pain caused by air accumulated in the affected area is to do something called cupping therapy (Peruvians call it ventosas). The Chinese have been doing this for over 3,000 years, and it was probably they who brought it to Peru. Apparently cupping therapy in not unknown in the United States and is used by some athletes. Wikipedia has this to say about cupping therapy:

"Cupping therapy is a form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin. Cupping has been characterized as pseudoscience. There is no good evidence it has any benefit on health and there are some concerns it may be harmful. Through suction, the skin is drawn into the cup by creating a vacuum in the cup placed on the skin over the targeted area. The vacuum can be created either by the heating and subsequent cooling of the air in the cup, or via a mechanical pump. The cup is usually left in place for somewhere between five and fifteen minutes. It is believed by some to help treat pain, deep scar tissues in the muscles and connective tissue, muscle knots, and swelling; however, the efficacy of this is unproven."

Maribel had severe pain beneath her right shoulder blade last night. Massage and ibuprofen did not help. Neither did the sulphur bar. This morning her sister administered cupping therapy. She placed a small lit candle on Maribel’s back, then placed an ordinary water glass over the candle. The candle quickly burned the available oxygen and went out, but not before creating suction and raising, to me an alarming amount of red, raw looking flesh into the glass. It resembled a huge pimple getting ready to burst, but it didn’t and supposedly the bad air was removed during the process. All that remained was a deep circular indentation from the edge of the glass that will hopefully fade over time. If not she can add some features and make a smiley face out of it.

Maribel is at this moment without pain and is singing as she prepares our lunch. Try to tell her that cupping therapy/ventosas is voodoo…go ahead; just try!

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