Adventures in Acupuncture


My back gives me trouble, and last year it was being particularly stubborn.  After some weeks of stretching and pulling on me, the physical therapist gave up.

“I’m going to send you for some complimentary treatment, if that’s alright.”

Complimentary treatment?  Of course, that sounds fabulous.  

“How do you feel about acupuncture?”  She glanced at me over her clipboard, gauging my response.

Now, I’m not afraid of needles, but the very word ‘acupuncture’ sent a sliver of cold dread down my spine.

“Um.  Ok… if that’s what you think will help…”

“Right.  I’ll send the referral.”  She added,  “It’s not as bad as it sounds.”

Acupuncture, like many health phenomena, is counter-intuitive.  Acupuncture says, “My, that’s a sore, knotty spot.  That’s quite tender.  I know!  Let’s stick a needle right there!”  And you’re helpless, lying on your face on the hard massage table, every ounce of you screaming, “No!  No!  Let’s NOT stick a needle there!  I’ve changed my mind!  I don’t want to heal!”

But they’re quick on the draw, those acupuncture wizards.  Before I can whimper, I’m a porcupine of thin metal quills.  They discuss my meridians, plucking up skin, drawing lines down my back with a fingertip.

“There’s a back up of chi along the Yang meridian.  Let’s go for Small Intestine 12 and Gallbladder 29.”

I kid not.  Gallbladder 29.

One day, my acupuncturist asks if he could try something new.

“It’s called cupping.  Gwyneth Paltrow is a big fan of it, you know.”  He smiles, a disarming smile, a ‘trust-me’ smile.

Cupping is straight up medieval.  He lights a match under a glass bowl and slaps it onto my back, the suction pulls up my skin, muscle, and I suspect part of my soul.  “When I’m done you’ll look like an amorous octopus has been at you,” he says in a low, comforting voice.

The suction is so strong, it indeed causes great red and purple welts all over my back.  They don’t hurt, oddly.  And besides the feeling of immense pressure, the cupping itself doesn’t hurt either.

After weeks and weeks of needles and fire and suction and Spleen 21, I find my back is actually getting better.

I’m cool with complimentary therapy, I decide.  But if they mention leeches, I’m running.


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