First Acupuncture Treatment

As I started up the five flights to my apartment on Tuesday evening, my left knee tightened and pulsed with a slight pain. “That’s strange,” I thought and continued climbing. Halfway to my room, I paused and inhaled to sooth the throbbing. Five steps remaining to my apartment, I succumbed to relying on my right leg to bend, straighten, and carry me home.

Six years ago, leaving work later than normal on a rainy night, I rode my scooter home on slick roads. A car in front of me stopped abruptly, and I collided into it with enough force that my shoes flew off and the visor of my helmet cracked off and shot out of sight.

Fortunately, there was no serious damage, but I was 20 and stupid and never sought real treatment afterwards. I convinced myself my body was fine.

Consequently, my knee pains return from time to time. I’ve given up on activities with excessive knee bending, like running or dancing, which makes this week’s pain unusual: I have done nothing out of the ordinary.

Jokingly, I complained to my co-worker about being an old lady whose joints hurt because of the weather. He recommended that I see an acupuncture doctor, and he offered to help me translate. It’s unbelievable the extent people have helped me in this country. Seriously, I will be eternally grateful.

The office was a compact but orderly room. The front desk faced the glass door entrance, and behind it stood the nurse who assisted with registration. To the left of the desk, sat seven wicker chairs along a blank, white wall. The space between the chairs and front desk was so narrow only one person could pass at a time. I was surprised when I noticed that four patients in the waiting room with faintly perceptible needles decorating their ailed flesh – their hands, ears, neck, and ankles. I didn’t realize the acupuncture would be such a public affair.

The wicker chairs faced into the doctor’s office. There was an opening connecting the two rooms with no door, framing patients’ treatment inside. The spartan office had one desk with a computer, a skeleton, two chairs, an alignment table, and a blue curtain for additional privacy. I watched him perform “the dance” to a boy of 14.  (My coworker warned me that the doctor may ask me to move my arms and body for reasons unknown.) The doctor stood closely behind him and guided his arms to form ellipses over his head and across his toes. As the performance ensued, I looked left and right to see if others were watching, and they were completely unphased.

The doctor spoke intermediate English, so I felt grateful my co-worker helped translate. I explained my  history and my current pain. The doctor recommended acupuncture and a hip realignment.

I return to the waiting area, rolled up my tight jeans to expose my knee, and the doctor swiftly inserted five needles around my knee cap. For 20 minutes I divided my attention to my knee and the woman next to me who sat in deep meditation with needles lining her scalp, neck, knees, and hands.

When the doctor removed the needles, he motioned me into his office. He asked that I stand without my shoes on and not move. He gently grabbed my right hand and raised it to the ceiling. “Oh, here we go…The dance,” I thought. He then guided my right arm above and behind my head and asked that I look up. With a fluid motion he pushed my arm in front of my body where I bent my torso perpendicular to my legs. He repeated this process a few times on my left and right side. His goal is still a mystery to me, but it wasn’t nearly as strange as I thought it would be. Honestly, I enjoyed following my breath and creating unconventional movements in his office. It felt like contemporary partner dance.

Following the dance, I laid on the table and he adjusted my hips. As always, the right leg was easy and it felt like a nice stretch, but my left leg was a sad state. It’s so rigid and stiff and felt like it wouldn’t budge from his incorrect alignment. I mouthed a few unpleasant phrases as he shifted bones into their correct order.

Tying up my Vans the assistant handed me two surprisingly spiced fragrant pads to place on my knee for two hours. The scent reminded me of “Chinese medicine” soup, but it was the actual Chinese medicine. She then asked for a shocking $150 NT ($5 USD) for the appointment. In disbelief of the cost, I double checked my receipt and noticed my insurance covered $450 ($14 USD) and the rest was on me. Wow, affordable healthcare!

I left the office feeling a bit confused and drained, similar to a post-chiropractic experience. On the bus ride home kept thinking “please let this be the last time I see a doctor about my injury,” so let’s hope and see!

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