I’ve just embarked on a month-long journey that requires me to put aside my biases and give my natural skepticism a rest. No, I’m not joining a religious cult. I’m seeing a doctor who practices Chinese medicine. I know nothing about Chinese medicine except that it’s considered an “alternative” to traditional Western medicine and for my entire life I’ve favored the latter.
Blame this incursion into the East on my M.D. She suggested I try acupuncture for chronic pain in my shoulders and upper back. I went to my HMO website and found their alphabetical list of approved acupuncturists. I chose the first name on the list and then moved to Yelp. I know. Yelp is good for restaurants. But medical care? Really?
Hey, the reviews were good, so I called for an acupuncture appointment. The receptionist said, “The doctor will see you for a ninety-minute consultation to determine if acupuncture will help.” Not what I expected.
Based on my medical history, the doctor gave me several assignments. The first was to drink the same amount of water as the average elephant. I don’t drink much water and know that seniors often suffer from dehydration, so I appreciated that assignment. We talked about diet, nutrition and exercise, and his suggestions for slight changes also sounded reasonable. Then it was time for tests. And this is where the woo-woo factor came in.
I laid on my back on a massage table. The doctor asked me to raise my arm and then held onto my wrist while he touched different spots on my belly, each of which represented an organ. As he touched me, he tried to pull my arm down; my job was to keep him from succeeding. At each point he would say, “heart no,” “lungs no,” “kidneys a little.” “No” meant he couldn’t pull my arm down and those organs were healthy. He repeated the test, this time focusing on vitamins. He’d say, “Vitamin A no, Vitamin B no,” probiotics no, Vitamin D3 yes.” This is the point where the process became eerier. The doctor pulled out four brands of Vitamin D and tested each one of them using the same method as with the other tests. He placed the bottles beside me one at a time. He could pull my arm down for three out of the four. So I’m now taking the brand that passed the test. (Skeptics, I know what you’re thinking. But no, it wasn’t the most expensive of the four.)
The last test, using the same method as all the others, was to find which treatments would be best. Physical therapists and chiropractors lost. Acupuncture won. So that’s where I’m headed today.
The final “prescription” designed to curb inflammation in my shoulders, included: add more fruits and vegetables to my diet and buy organic; cut back on grains; walk for one hour every day instead of dividing my walk into parts; sleep eight hours a night; and meditate. So despite the tests that seemed unreal to me, thus far the regimen makes perfect sense. In addition, I’m supposed to drink three cups of ginger tea a day and 3 cups of water with turmeric stirred into them. I would rather have lemon-flavored water than turmeric, but so far I’ve survived two glasses. Again, this is not so strange. My own doctor recommended turmeric tablets some months ago.
If any other aspects of my treatment seem interesting or unusual, or if the treatments actually work, I’ll cover the topic in a future blog. I’ll have time. While drinking water to satisfy an elephant, I’m staying home near a bathroom for the next few days.