Friday, April 18, 2008

Pins and Needles

Courtesy of

A Chinese medical practice or procedure that treats illness or provides local anesthesia by the insertion of needles at specified sites of the body.

The burning of moxa or other substances on the skin to treat diseases or to produce analgesia.

Acupuncture, or hari (針) as it is known in Japan, is probably more common in the states, even considering Japan's proximity to China.

I first heard about my options concerning acupuncture as I was researching recovery and rehabilitation following wrist surgery. Hari is useful as a way of reducing pain and restoring nerve function, but I don't believe it offers too much in the way of flexibility.

Nevertheless, with a friend of a friend of mine in Kagoshima being a doctor licensed to perform acupuncture (and myself getting a discount of 2,000 yen/session), I decided to experiment with all possible methods to restore my wrist function. If I don't regain 99.9%, I'd rather be dead than living like a freak (not that people with disabilities are, just that I would be).

Step One
Just like with any doctor, go over your symptoms and why you feel acupuncture is necessary. Unlike other forms of rehabilitation, however, acupuncture may or may not be covered by insurance. I think if you can get a doctor to make a statement that acupuncture is essential, this might be the case... but, my doctor doesn't seem to think losing 30% of my range of motion is a big deal. I really should break his wrist.

Step Two
Depending on your pain and desired treatment, lie on your back and prepare to be pricked. The doctor should be using sterilized needles, which he will then use to change the regular flow of energy in your body. Sometimes he will leave the needles in, otherwise a short one-second insertion will do in multiple places. Relax. There should be only the slightest amount of pain, as if the needle is gently touching the peripheral nerve but not irritating or activating it.

Step Three
Wait. Usually the needles are left in for 10, 20, 30 minutes.

Step Four
Again, depending on your treatment, the needles will be removed and suction pumps placed on your back. Using a vaccuum machine, this feels a lot like you're being attacked by a school of leeches, sans pain.

Step Five
Maybe a short massage, and follow-up instructions. Be careful not to go to an onsen for at least two hours following treatment - apparently the blood can rush too quickly to your head and you can faint. At least, that's what I was told. I still went (needed a soak) and felt fine.

Conclusions... western doctors have been unable to determine exactly how acupuncture works, but they won't deny that it definitely does work. As such, I will continue treatment until someone tells me it in fact inhibits recovery. Nothing can hurt the wrist any more than it already has been, anyway.

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