Anyong! Lindsay here again. Sorry but I had to steal Whit’s turn so I could tell you about my first real experience with “Oriental Medicine.”
I have been having right shoulder pains ever since I whirled my arm around some 300 times during our sunmudo martial arts class about a month ago at the Buddhist temple.
It has progressively gotten worse, eventually now getting in the way of my running as it only jostles it and upsets it more. I tried to ignore it, tried to tell myself it would eventually just go away, but no. Every morning I wake up and I can barely move it, then complain to Whit all day because it just gets worse during the day when I have lift my arm to write on the whiteboard.
So finally, today, I gave in. I asked my always helpful co-teacher Kim Young-mi to find me a doctor, preferrably one that speaks English. I gave her a quick run-down on the situation and within the hour, she had found me a doctor, albeit one that does not speak English.
“Have you ever been to an Oriental doctor?” she asked me. Funny she should mention this. Just last week, a foreigner mentioned how much they love going to the “Oriental doctor,” also known as the “Chinese doctor.” In other words, it is traditional Eastern medicine. In other words, acupuncture. In other words, needles. In. My. Skin.
But I did it!!
Young-mi took me to the Oriental doctor, located just a mile or so from my neighborhood, directly after school. (No time to get nervous!!) She explained my situation and I was quickly hustled in and told to lie down.
The “hospital” as it is called by Koreans is much different than an American doctor’s office. It looks more like the waiting area of a drab bus station, with shabby curtains separating each bed where Koreans are being poked and prodded and red-lighted and vibrated.
They first ran some kind of electrons through my shoulder for about 10 minutes under an infra-red light. Then, a Korean man who was just previously outside the curtain singing a Korean song along with a TV show walked in and showed me the needles.
“Acupuncture,” he said, before holding down my arm and jabbing five thin needles into my shoulder. People say it doesn’t hurt. But have you ever jabbed a needle an inch deep into your skin? That’s what it feels like.
For those untrained in acupuncture, it works like this: Tiny thread-like needles (not that tiny though) are inserted into specific points on the body along meridians (energy channels of the body) that cross the body. As long as the energy flows freely through these pathways, health is maintained. When the flow of energy is disturbed for any reason, there is disruption in health, resulting in pain or illness. By stimulating appropriate acupuncture points along these meridians, the energy is regulated, and health is restored.
So after the Oriental doctor man inserted the needles, he left me to my own devices, which is about the time I started freaking out. All the pain in my arm felt as if it was being lifted to the surface. It wanted to break though, but couldn’t. As my arm felt heavier and heavier, my hand began feeling light and tingly.
I quickly darted my eyes upward, hoping I wouldn’t see black spots. Who was going to find Whit if I passed out or ended up in some real hospital? Thankfully, after a few minutes, I calmed down. And no black or yellow or purple spots showed up in my vision.
About 20 minutes later, two women came in, quickly pulled the needles out, and then hooked suction cups to my skin that felt like they were literally going to suck up every piece of skin I owned on my upper arm. This might have even been the most painful part of the experience.
After about two really uncomfortable minutes of her standing over me as my skin and blood was sucked and drained, the cups were taken off and a bandage was placed on my arm.
They brought in two heating pads, one for under my arm and the other to lay on top. She turned on my bed, which conveniently turned into a vibrating massage table, and I lied in bliss and warmth as the table beneath me beat on my back and legs and butt.
That was the grand finale, after which I walked out, paid my 15 bucks, said “Ne-eel?” (tomorrow?), they said yes, and then I caught a bus home.
So did it hurt? Yes, a little. Did it work? Right now, it is sore and has a weird burning feeling. But I have to go back two more times. And then, I will report my findings.