30 May 2013


For my 27th birthday my best friend and cousin gave me an acupuncture session. She volunteered to do it herself with toothpicks and a Yani soundtrack, but I elected to take her up on the gift certificate offer instead. She knew how much I love massages, so she figured an acupuncture session might be an appropriate variation.
So off I went to the Virginia College of Oriental Medicine for my acupuncture visit. In the waiting room I signed my signature six different times on six different magazines, and then got the health waivers which also required six different signatures. Generally my signature looks the same so I had to really exercise some creativity in making it different all those times. On the last form- my patient confidentiality report- I just drew the state of Idaho where my signature should have gone. It was surprisingly accurate and I was pleased to see that all my practice signing magazines was really paying off. While waiting I walked around handing people the signed magazines, telling them to find me on page 32. Many people were confused. Also in the waiting room there was a jar of what appeared to be human organs in formaldehyde, many, many magazines aimed at women, and coffee. Of the three, I would have to say the human organs were more current than the womanly magazines or the coffee, and that's not saying much. I picked one magazine up and read about the Oscars... of 2011. You may recall the most shocking Oscar upset that year- when Rick Baker and Dave Elsey won the "Achievement in Makeup" Oscar for 'The Wolfman.' Wow, somehow I had totally forgotten about that.
I think these may have been human organs soaking in the waiting room. It's a bad picture because I had to snap it quick while the receptionist was distracted. I didn't want to end up in a jar...
With my life signed away times six, my heart racing at the thought of ending up in a jar, and my brain flummoxed at how easily it could have forgotten Oscar trivia that I dubiously knew just two short years ago, I made my way to the insertion room with Ms. Chuang. Our interview- in English more broken than a Jewish plate at a wedding- was the most humorous occurrence of the afternoon. If I have only one regret in life, it's that no one told me you're supposed to go to acupuncture with problems. People don't just go to be stuck with needles repeatedly for fun. How was I not informed of this earlier? Oh that's right, most people just know these things.
Ms. Chuang asked me why I was there. I told her I had been given a gift certificate and that I always enjoy a good massage. To this, she replied: "Massage feel good. Acupuncture, no. Needles no feel good. Different from massage." That made me a little nervous, and I almost backed out but then decided I ought to stick things out, or stick things in, as it were. Throughout the whole interview I got the sense that Ms. Chuang already had the answers she wanted in mind, regardless of the words I spoke which she couldn't understand.
Ms. Chuang: "You hot person or cold person?"
Me: "I'm doing just fine, thank you."
MC: "But not now. Other times. You hot or cold person?"
Me: "Do you mean physically? or are you talking about my personality?"
MC: "Your body. When your friends are comfortable, you more hot or more cold?"
Me: "Well, I think when others are comfortable, I'm pretty comfortable too. I wouldn't say my body temperature is that much off from what it should be."
MC: "You must decide. Hot of cold?"
Me: "Well, I guess I've been cold on more occasions than hot, so I'll say I'm a cold person."
MC: "Okay. Good. How much you sweat?"
Me: "What do you mean? Do you want a measurement? Like in cups and ounces?"
MC: "Yes. When you exercise, do you sweat?"
Me: "Of course."
MC: "You sweat more or less than friends?"
Me: "This sounds kind of like the heat question. When I'm playing basketball with my friends, I'd say I sweat about the same amount as them. It depends on the outside temperature and how hard we are working."
MC: "So more or less than friends?"
Me: "I guess less."
MC: "But what about at night. Night sweats?"
Me: "Um, no."
MC: "You sure?"
Me: "Umm, yes?"
She was trying very hard to get me to admit a deep and profound physical impairment. We covered the five vital organs, stress, bloating, body temperature, blood circulation, and fatigue, none of which I differ from the general population by more than a few standard deviations. Ms. Chuang honestly seemed disappointed that I didn't have anything for her to fix with her little needles. I thought she was asking all these questions to make sure I was healthy enough for acupuncture, but I guess she was fishing for faults. I was satisfied that I was healthy; she was depressed and disappointed that I was young and in my 20s. But, we decided to pursue the procedure promptly.
I took my shoes and socks off, laid down on a bed, she put a heater on me (remember, I'm a cold person), and then inserted 16 needles in my body, ranging from my feet/ankles all the way up to the crown of my head. I just felt a little prick with each one. Then she put on a soft piano CD and left me. It's a good thing it was a soft CD because it was jammed into my thigh the whole time. For fifteen minutes I fell into a deep, relaxing trance. It was wonderful. I have to say though, I almost feel like the needles were secondary. I would have been just as relaxed had I been in the same circumstances without the piercings. When my lethargic, adult nap time was over Ms. Chuang came thundering back in. I got the sense that she had another client after me, and that she sensed I wouldn't be back based on my health concerns. I don't think I was her top priority, and I think she may give other patients 30 minutes. She came in, took the needles out, told me I was done, then left. No "How was it?" or anything. She left the room very quickly and I was left to my own devices to find my shoes (luckily they were just where I had left them) and see my way out.
Overall I enjoyed the experience, but more for its comedy, relaxation, and cultural experience than for its medicinal purposes. I don't think I'd go back in lieu of a massage, but there's a slim chance I would return if I was, say, an incessant sweater or extremely hot all the time.


Jenny said...

Hahahahaha. Who knew acupuncture was intended to fix something? I guess we've both learned something from this experience. :)

Emily J said...

Ha! Very funny post. Reading it made me realize I haven't heard the real version from you, so I (as usual) am not exactly sure how much of this is true...

Shavonda Wallis said...

“People don't just go to be stuck with needles repeatedly for fun.”—It's true, David. Acupuncture is only performed if you're currently suffering from physical pain. But then, it doesn't relieve the pain instantly, which is why it is divided into several sessions until your injury gets healed.

Shavonda @AvicennaDenver.com

Ula Cepeda @ USHealthWorks.com/Redwood-City-Center said...

You may not feel any signs of health problems, but who's to know except a professional, right? I'm quite sure that you felt a lot better after your first session. What more if you continue it? It would be best to ask your doctor if there is still a need for acupuncture instead of assuming you don't need it anymore.