My first acupuncturism

After over a year struggling with this bloody Achilles injury and having chalked sports massage, physiotherapy and reiki off the list of possible solutions, I decided to drop in to the herb and acupuncture store* – for yes, we have such a thing – at my local shopping centre.

I’ve never once walked by it in the company of someone who didn’t pass remark “how does that place stay open?”  But having researched online, there was a reasonable percentage of people saying that acupuncture was in fact helpful for tendonitis.

So a pleasant Chinese woman (presumably – the Chinese bit I mean, not the presumption that she was a woman) told me that I could get a free consultation and told me to “take a seat” before adding “not literally!” and laughing hysterically.  No, no – she didn’t say the last bit.

A minute later this young, earnest guy directs a middle-aged, confused looking Chinese man to a curtained-off cubicle next to me and then ushers me in afterwards.  He explains that the other man was the doctor and that he was going to translate for him.  Now the translator bit always throws me.  Ultimately I’m communicating with the person who doesn’t speak my language but I’m directing my information through the conduit of a second human being who gets all my attention during my speaking bit.

So I’m making eye contact with the translator who is then passing on the information to the doctor.  I look to the doctor with a rather gormless pursed-lip grin that I’m sure he could do without and then I’m going back to the translator with raised eyebrows, wondering if in fact the nature of my ailment had been properly communicated.

It’s a tense, critical moment.  Of course, my phone rings.  If it wasn’t bad enough for the wise healer to hear this he then had to endure this as the cancelled-caller left a voicemail.

Thankfully we overcame this hurdle and the doctor said he could improve my condition with some acupuncture and medical massage.  The numbers sounded a bit scary but I figured I’d poured so much money in to other forms of therapy and massage without relief that I’d give it a shot.

I lay on my back and the doctor jabbed a half dozen or so pins in to various parts of my body.  Just over my head was a sketched poster of a naked man that identified the “Acupoints” (a completely made-up word I’m sure) on our bodies.  Sure enough the points highlighted around my ankle/heel were the various points where I felt a little prick (speaking of which, on the poster, because they wanted to highlight acupoints on the inner thigh, they only semi-obscured his organ – and it still looked massive).

Meanwhile, the doctor is looking at me for a reaction as he prods my Achilles and occasionally utters something that sounds like “meh?” but I took to be him asking if there was any pain.  It wasn’t like he was saying the Chinese word for “pain”, I think he was just lacking conviction on the whole English language thing.

The Phrase BookHe sods off for 20 minutes and it was quite a relaxing experience I have to say.  He comes back to me, whips out the pins, says “ok?” and then brings in a barrel of what looks like warm sewage.  He gestures at a chair as if to say “sit on this chair and submerge your foot in to this barrel of ancient Chinese medicine”, looks at me and says “ten minutes”.  I guess they have some sort of phrase book to get them through the day.

This barrel of sewage, or whatever, was bloody lovely.  Oh, sure, there was what felt like a half-eaten Mars Duo at the bottom but that’s ok.  I mean…I’m sure it was just a Mars Duo.

So he comes back in, dries off my foot (after gesturing to me to sit on the edge of the bed again but I have to say it was a bit ambiguous) and then followed up with another gesture to lie down on my back again.  I do so and he gets working on my foot, massaging like a mad man.  It was a bit sore but I suppose that’s the point.

Then – get this – he stands up and says “face down, please”.  Now, hold on a second!  I’m buying in to this whole ancient, mystical Chinese thing because you can’t speak any bloody English!  And here you are practically asking me what I do for a living and if I’ve any plans for the weekend.  What a letdown!  I can only imagine that once I left he kicked his shoes off and put on “The Wire” boxset.

My image of this all-knowing doctor only being a step away from the this guy has been blown out of the water.  But at the same time it was quite an interesting experience so I’ve booked in for a second round.  Plus they gave me some anti-inflammatories and this Chinese massage oil that is so strong it actually rips your skin off and melts your bone.  I’m all about that.

* Mind you, I’m a bit concerned about this.