Christian's Chronicles

July| Vol. 22 No. 8.02 | Christian's Chronicles © 2015 – All rights reserved.

Human Pincushion

Open-mindedness is one of those values to which we like to pay copious amounts of lip-service. A healthy dose of skepticism is an equally celebrated ingredient in modern recipes of the politically correct. Accordingly, this edition of the Chronicles has a bit of both.

The back-story is exactly that; it begins in the lumbar region.

A long long time ago (2013) I found myself in a magical little town where despite the relatively abundant parking and roads, you are guaranteed to encounter a number of individuals running along on foot at all hours of the day and night, up and down the hills and valleys and almost as many restaurants per capita as San Francisco. But this little place is much smaller than the City by the Bay, which itself is deceptively small (most don’t realize that San Jose is far bigger in not only surface area, but population, as well).

I’m talking, of course, about Charlottesville, VA.

All right, so this may not have been entirely obvious, but let’s get on with the ‘back-story.’ While I found myself in Charlottesville, despite the relatively good accommodations (as compared to my immediately preceding stay in Georgia), my sleep was continuously and predictably disrupted by:

Back pain.

This was a double nuisance, as it presented a constant nocturnal companion of significant inconvenience, while also indirectly resulting in exhaustion and the occasional tardiness, much to the chagrin of certain of my companions at that time. That, however, is for another Chronicle.

For present purposes, it suffices to say that the pain in the lumbar region that started back than has ever since been a relatively constant companion who checks in on me regularly, just like an old annoying friend who stops by at the most inopportune times, when you thought you had forgotten about him, and when you least expected him. I thought it was the bed, so I changed mine a few times. I tried to elevate my legs, but I can’t sit still all night so its no use. I have tried a few stretch exercises and whatnot.

Then, I decided to do something I usually save for a last resort: I went to see the doctor.

After X-rays and blood tests of all types, many things were ruled out but we were no closer to identifying the problem. Apparently there is some small misalignment in one of my vertebra, but that is not unusual. Most people have something like that, with no symptoms (or so the doctor told me). So, having exhausted his expertise, he referred me to physical therapy.

That set in motion a whole new insurance-frustration-related set of events, in which I had to battle my way through insurmountable obstacles of referrals, authorizations, and ignorant phone reps, to finally get an appointment at the physical therapists’ office.

However, in the mean time, I decided to also pursue an alternative strategy. Yes, if the dehumanizing, impersonal machinery of the mainstream health care system had such difficulties even in getting me an appointment with a physical therapist, perhaps it was time to look to alternative… medicine.

So I checked on Yelp, prices, and any derogatory information with the relevant accreditation boards, and selected a nearby practitioner who seemed to be the best option. And so it came to pass that I went to my first ever acupuncture appointment last week.

I don’t particularly have a thing for being poked by needles, ever since that fateful day long ago when I almost passed out when providing a sample for one of the multitude of blood tests I had done, courtesy of having been a fighter subject to the testing requirements of various athletic commissions. But I thought I’d give it a try. My appointment was relatively late in the afternoon, to accommodate the other things on my schedule that make me so interesting and awesome. So after I had made my peace with the fact that a man was about to poke me with needles, I walked in and shook hands with my… therapist? Practitioner? What is the appropriate lingo? Anyway, he put me at ease and explained what I should expect. I was happy to find that he was not big on the ‘energy flow’ mumbo-jumbo, of which I am highly skeptical, and he further added that for some it works really well right away, for others it takes time, and for still others, it will never work. I still do not exactly know which group I fall into, but this is what happened.

The first day, after lying face down on an apparatus akin to a massage table (or maybe that’s exactly what it was…) complete with face rest and pillow under my hips to ease the pressure on my lower back, the needles having been inserted in various places along my back and legs, with some stimulation and heat applied, my initial misgivings faded away and I felt relaxed and calm afterward. I am not sure if that was a ‘placebo’ effect, and it is difficult to describe exactly what the effect was, but while I was in the room looking like a human pincushion, I was very much relaxed. I even dozed off for a few minutes. The relaxation continued even after the session.

But, at night, my back hurt again.

I was not immediately ready to write off acupuncture altogether, because I thought I may simply be one of those for whom it takes several sessions, and I should not be as impatient as to expect an immediate ‘cure’ to my ailments. Besides, I had already scheduled 2 more sessions, just to give it a fair shot.

And, that is where I am today. Except that the following night, my back did not hurt at all. Maybe there is a delay effect? I don’t quite know, but I’m looking forward to the next session. Let’s see if those crazy little needles can achieve a more lasting effect. I’m open toward the possibility that they might – that’s my open minded side. I’m also skeptical of the ‘energy flow’ stuff, and to be honest, I remain somewhat skeptical of whether it is going to work at all, in terms of alleviating my symptoms. But hey, I’m giving it a shot.

As a final note, I finally saw the physical therapist, who was also puzzled by certain of my other symptoms. I am experiencing muscle soreness and weakness in my legs (quads) for no apparent reason, since I stopped working out on my legs. He was especially puzzled because it is bilateral. Apparently, such things usually affect one side or the other. Anyway, I asked him if I should try Yoga, which is something else I had been contemplating. His answer:

“It is good for business”

He told me he sees many patients who come to him as a result of Yoga-related injuries. Who knew? At any rate, my Yogi-ambitions have been put on hold, at least until after I’m done with the physical therapy (and acupuncture).

That’s all for now. We shall keep you posted on the progress (or lack thereof) of acupuncture and physical therapy.

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This entry was posted on October 13, 2014 by in The Chronicles.