“You’re going to feel this throughout your body”, he warned. I braced myself by sticking my thumbnail into my forefinger, anticipating a slight surge of pain. But what I got was more like a lightning bolt of energy shooting from my knee straight down to my foot. I jumped. They restrained me. I didn’t cry.
I’ve been curious about Chinese Medicine ever since my arrival in Taiwan more than three years ago. And although I’m relatively healthy, I’m at that age where I could really use a little “tune up” – like the major maintenance check often recommended for cars at 100,000 miles.
So after years of curiosity, I finally stumbled into a Chinese Medical clinic and began my journey into the mysteries of Chinese Medicine, beginning my “tune-up” with acupuncture.
My friend and I wandered into the small clinic just to check it out and were greeted by two friendly, smiling women. One spoke just enough English to help me fill out the required paperwork (all in Chinese) and then directed us upstairs to wait for the doctor.
Minutes later I was in the doctor’s office with his fingers on my pulse. I told him my main complaint was a bad back, something I’d been dealing with for about 10 years. It’s manageable but, as I get older, my gym workouts have become more of a physical therapy session. My chiropractor in the US could only offer a prescription of exercise, “Exercise is your friend. That’s how you’ll keep it stretched out.”
The Chinese doctor spoke English but asked very few questions, instead taking time to let my pulse tell him the story of my body.
First question: “Your pulse is very weak. Do you have low energy?” (Yes)
Second question: “How is your sleep? Do you wake up a lot at night?” (Bad and yes)
He asked a few more questions, all pinpointing exactly what state my body (with nearly 100,000 miles on) was in. He also looked at my tongue but I’m not quite sure what my tongue said to him.
Then he told me to go eat lunch, take the prescribed medicine, and come back later for my first acupuncture session.
I was given 14 packets of a powdery concoction and instructed to take one after lunch and one before bedtime, every day for 7 days. Sounds simple enough, but I still wrote it down in English just so I wouldn’t forget. (A sign of excessive mileage on the brain?)
After lunch I looked at the small packet of powdery substance and assumed it needed to be mixed with water. I got a small glass, mixed it up and drank it down. Didn’t taste too bad. That evening I was talking with a Taiwanese friend who explained that I had really screwed up the traditional Chinese medicine ritual. She explained, “You are supposed to get a little water in your mouth, pour it in, mix it up and swallow.”
Sounds kind of simple, but really it’s not. That night before bed, I opened the packet, got a little water in my mouth, poured the powder in. The powdery medicine is like a fine saw dust and was weightless as it filled up the area underneath my tongue. When the packet was empty I closed my mouth and felt a large pile of powdery sludge lodged under my tongue. I gulped some water, tried to mix it inside my mouth where it turned into a thick saw dust paste. I drooled it all over the floor and finally choked it down.
(I’m still trying to master the Taiwanese technique of holding just enough water in my mouth to mix it without drooling or choking. It’s a work in progress.)
A few hours later I returned to the clinic for my first scheduled acupuncture session, a little nervous but excited to get on with it. I assumed the position face down on the table and he went to work on me, first pinpointing the exact problem area on my lower back. He began to stick long needles into my body and I waited for some pain. A few needles in, I felt no pain. “This is great!” I thought. “I can handle it.”
Then he hit an area on the left side of my back…”Ouch, felt that one a little.” As he moved to the back of my right knee he warned, “You’re going to feel this throughout your body”. I braced myself by sticking my thumbnail into my forefinger, anticipating a slight surge of pain. But what I got was more like a lightning bolt of energy shooting from my knee straight down to my foot. I jumped. “Holy S***!” They restrained me. But amazingly, that’s exactly the spot that is always really tight and impossible to stretch out. Blocked energy? (This guy could be on to something.)
He left me lying there saying he’d return in fifty minutes (“FIFTY minutes?” I asked nervously? “No, FIF-TEEN minutes”, he assured me.) I tried to block out the memory of the searing pain of a lightening bolt shooting through my leg and ignored the long needles sticking out of my back. Instead I focused on breathing deeply and floating away to my “happy place”. He returned 15 minutes later as promised, removed the needles, and released me. I rose slowly and felt slightly dizzy and a little bit loopier than normal.
Total cost: $190NTD (less than $6 USD)
My first night on the Chinese Medicine, after choking and gulping it down, I actually slept fairly well. I woke up feeling rested with no acupuncture-hangover pain in my back. Later, at the gym, the lightening bolt area of my right leg stretched with less pain and there was a little less crunching in my back. Small victories.
Maybe there is hope for an actual cure, eventually…after three more acupuncture sessions. Then it’s on to “Adventures in Qi Gong Therapy”!
Have you tried Acupuncture or Qi Gong? Any tips or success stories?
(I have a tip: Since I was still suffering slight PTSD flashbacks when I left his office, I treated it with “Ice Cream Therapy” from the 7-11 around the corner. Cures everything. Honest.)