Ever since I slept on that awful limp mattress for four months back in 2009, my lower right back hasn’t been the same. More recently, my left shoulder suffered a nasty fall from a snowboarding mishap this past February. Being in China, I decided to try alternative Chinese medicines to treat my nagging musculoskeletal problems: electroacupuncture and fire cupping therapy. (And I never thought that I would get acupunctured and go clubbing on the same day - more on this at the end).
Originally, I only considered massage therapy but my Mom knew an acupuncture specialist, Doctor Jiao, from when she fractured her foot. Needles don’t scare me, and I was curious about traditional treatment methods, so I signed myself up for ten one-hour sessions.
I was quite nervous throughout my first session not knowing where my pain tolerance level was. Very quickly I realized that my pain tolerance level was quite low. First I took off my shirt and laid face down on the table. Doctor Jiao applied the oil and targeted the nerves clusters around my neck, shoulder blade, and lower back with some very powerful and precise movements. I alternated between grimacing and giggling because some of the most painful areas were also really ticklish. I was also sweating profusely due to the pain. The agony lasted a very long 20 minutes.
As I was thinking about how much of a pansy I was, I felt the unmistakable jab of needles all around my shoulders and all the way down my spine. Apart from the initial prick through the skin, the needles didn’t hurt much. I stayed completely motionless for some time trying to discern any tangible feelings of bodily relief but apparently Doctor Jiao wasn’t done yet. He hooked up cables from an electrical pulse generator to a few needles and suddenly I felt a uniform dull throbbing in the affected areas. The throbbing eventually increased in intensity and I experienced more of a sharp twitching sensation. The electroacupuncture continued for 20 minutes.
At this point I was ready to go home but they saved the best for last. Fire cupping therapy involves heating a cup and allowing it to cool face down on the patient; the heat dissipation then creates a strong suction force which is believed to promote blood flow and healing. The suction force felt very heavy, as if tall pillars of stone were resting upright on my back, and it felt great actually. Unfortunately, cupping therapy leaves behind hideous hickeys…
Finally my session was over. Doctor Jiao twisted and cracked my neck and back in all directions as part of the “winding down” phase. I kept daydreaming about those ninja movies where they sneak up behind the bad guys and kill them with one swift snap of the neck… which wasn’t comforting at all. The whole procedure was extremely exhausting and I passed out immediately at home for a nice long nap. I did wake up afterwards feeling slightly more nimble.
The next day I went back to Doctor Jiao for a follow up painfest. That same evening I met up with my childhood friend and her sister for some drinks and clubbing action at Hei Hei Club. I was really sore but alcohol makes you forgot a lot of things. It was my first clubbing experience in Guangzhou as well! I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Perhaps the acupuncture simulated my liver in a positive way…