ALTERNATIVE medicine, accredited and overseen by the country’s health regulator, has continued to grow, with the number of licensed practitioners in the field surging by more than 20 per cent in the last year.
There were 53 alternative medicine practitioners in Bahrain last year, up from 44 in 2021, and 22 licensed facilities in the field, up from 21 in 2021, according to the National Health Regulatory Authority’s (NHRA) recently released Annual Report for 2022.
“The main increase we saw in 2022 was in Ayurveda and cupping,” NHRA chief executive Dr Mariam Jalahma told the GDN.
“Amongst new applications, most were for ayurvedic medicine followed by chiropractic then osteopathy and homoeopathic medicine.”
Of the 53 licensed medicine practitioners, 28 specialised in Ayurveda, eight in chiropractic, five in osteopathy, four in homoeopathy, three in naturopathy, two in acupuncture, two in traditional Chinese medicine and one in biodynamic craniosacral therapy.
The report also noted that 27 alternative medicine practitioners were licensed in 2022, up from 18 in 2021.
Twenty-two of these were Ayurveda technicians, two were massage therapists, two were cupping therapists and one was a biodynamic craniosacral therapists.
At the licensed alternative medicine facilities, massage therapy was being provided at 14 of them, Ayurveda at 12 of them, cupping therapy (also called hijama) at nine of them, acupuncture at eight of them, traditional Chinese medicine at six of them, herbal therapy at three of them, reflexology at two of them, osteopathy therapy at two of them, naturopathy at two of them and homoeopath at another one.
Hijama (cupping therapy) topped the alternative medicine services being provided in other centres.
This comes after medical practitioners in the kingdom were trained in cupping therapy during a first-of-its-kind programme organised by the NHRA in October last year, as reported in the GDN.
Doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and alternative medicine practitioners in the country took part in the course, which allowed them to officially offer their services and carry a certificate to prove their proficiency.
Cupping therapy involves an old traditional method of placing cups made of glass, bamboo, or other materials on specific areas of the body to treat different conditions. The cups create a suction effect to help treat inflammation, increase blood circulation, help with pain, and as a form of massage therapy.
Wet cupping involves cutting the skin and using suction to remove blood from various parts of the body; in dry cupping, a plastic or glass cup is placed on the skin, then the air inside the cup is suctioned or vacuumed out.
Before the first-of-its-kind workshop, patients would have to travel to Saudi Arabia, the UAE or even Georgia to accredited facilities, but now they can feel confident about seeking the treatment locally.
The NHRA has been in the process of finding ways to regulate the practice of traditional cupping therapy, to ensure safe and hygienic practices in terms of the regulated disposal of the medical waste, including blood.
The annual report also noted that four new applications for alternative medicine facilities were received by the NHRA.
“The general engineering requirements are the same as other medical facilities, focusing on safety, infection control and building requirements,” Dr Jalahma added.
“Other requirements depend on the scope of services related to the procedures that will be carried on such as the cupping or acupuncture rooms.
“For new facilities, the first step is to open a Commercial Registration (CR) through Sijilat accompanied with the full proposal which should include the type and scope of services.
“Once the proposal gets municipality and civil defence approval, the NHRA will grant a preliminary licence and the investor may start applying for staff licences.
“And when the facility is ready the investor may request inspection, and if compliant with the standards after field inspection, the final licence will be issued.”