Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wow, Chinese Medicine Actually Works!

M and I discussed our mutual body aches and pains. A friend of hers referred her to an acupuncture specialist in SF J-Town. Given our mutual conditions, it seemed like a good time to go check it out.

Despite being of Chinese ethnicity, I had never gone to a Chinese medicine specialist, even when I was in Taiwan. In fact, I don't think any of my relatives have. Chinese medicine was one of those things that (even for Chinese people) seemed mystical -- great potential to help you, but also a great potential to hurt you. The emphasis was always on two things;

- Only use it for stuff that is just hanging on you, problems that linger for months if not years, that Western medicine can't handle.

- Only use a practitioner whom a good number of your friends and associates can vouch for.

Technically, the J-town practitioner fit the bill. I also added a sprained wrist the day before to my list of ailments, so I was more than ready to have someone provide some help for my aching joints.

It was, to say the least, very interesting. The Chinese Medicine Doctor had almost as many forms as a doctor at my HMO -- including all of the usual CYA forms.

After a general check of my pulse and my tongue, the practitioner asked the following;

- Your pulse shows stress & pain, is that the case? (I'm always stressed, and my joints are in much pain).
- Do you have chest congestion. (No.) OK, don't worry about.
- Your pulse shows that the stress is attacking your stomach & spleen, do you have problems there? (No.) Don't worry about it, then.

The Chinese Medicine Doctor then had me lie down on the bed, and inserted needles in my shoulder, elbows, wrist, and knees. I could feel the needles just break my skin, but they didn't hurt at all. The needles were connected to electrodes that sent a low voltage electric pulse into my muscles. Some areas (my chest and shoulders) got a bigger pulse of electricity. Others (my wrist) the electric pulse was barely noticeable.

On one level, it seems a little wacky, needles and electricity. Then I remembered what a colleague of mine told me about how professional athletes get low level electrical surges as part of their physical therapy from injuries and general muscle strain. The only difference was that my Chinese Medicine Doctor was using needles instead of whatever overprice electrode that an NFL doctor uses.

The Doctor also used an odd suction device on my back. I couldn't see it, but I could definitely feel it. I think it was the moxubustion thing I had read about, how you drop a match into a glass cup, it sucks air, creating a vacuum that is ideal for sucking large chunks of skin into the glass cup. She ran the suction glass cup up and down my back. It hurt a bit. I could feel a good hunk of my skin going into the cup, and the cup running up, down, left, and right, across my back.

The result.

It wasn't 100% recovery, but it was a definite improvement. In detail;

My Wrist;

It still hurts, but the the range of motion is much improved. Moving it up and down and left and right doesn't hurt as much as it did this morning. I'm thinking maybe the electrical therapy brought down some of the swelling on the inside of my wrist that was making it hard to move it around.

My Shoulder;

In the back of the shoulder, a lot of the fatigue had gone. Also, related to the shoulder injury, it didn't hurt nearly as much to move my head left and right. The muscle pain along my neck and spine was gone. The muscles that connect my shoulder to the center of my chest still feel a little painful and stiff. But about half of the stiffness and discomfort that I had on my left shoulder has (for now at least) gone.

Maybe the ultimate validation, the Doctor left a few bandages with short needles embedded in them planted against a few pressure points around my shoulder, and a thick gauze bandage around my wrist. She told me to keep them on for the next few days, try not to let them get loosened up by showers and bathing.

She did not recommend a follow up visit. She didn't see the need.

Overconfidence in her abilities, maybe.

Or maybe she was honest, and not out to squeeze a buck out of me.

Maybe there are a few honest quacks out there.

1 comment:

  1. You could also check out a tui-na specialist. I've had good luck with them in the past, though I've never gone to an acupuncturist.

    If you want self-service Chinese medicine, check out some of the qi gong instructors. I've found that stuff works really well, if you have the temperment to do it regularly.