Monday, February 23, 2009

The Acupuncture Shop in Chinatown

I've walked and biked by the acupuncture shop in Chinatown for nearly 17 years, and never thought about going in. It's just a narrow glass door labelled 931-933. Signs on the wall above it list many shops hiding behind this one doorway, including the acupuncture shop of Dr. Xu.  My friend Ima went in when she was diagnosed with heart problems. She came out happy. But I didn't have any health problems and I didn't know what acupuncture could do.

My rehab doc who works with osteoarthritis told me that part of the pain in my left hip is bursitis, not arthritis.  He made this diagnosis based on the location of the pain. He says that pain in the outer hip is bursitis and pain in the groin area is arthritis. He tried to talk me into letting him inject steroids into my outer hip joint.  No way am I going to let an addictive and debilitating drug into my system. He tried two months in a row to convince me -- just one shot -- actually two -- one of lidocaine to be sure it's the right spot and then one with steroids.  After my second refusal, he suggested acupuncture.

Coming from an MD, I was surprised. I thought MDs totally avoided alternative medicine. I told him I'd consider it. That evening I looked up acupunture and bursitis on the web.  Acupuncture has a high rate of CURING bursitis. It's not a pain treatment, like steroids. It's a real cure. It usually takes 5 visits.

I called the acupuncture shop and made an appointment. 

The shop isn't at all what I expected. You go up a flight of dimly lit stairs to a small office on the 2nd floor. The door is painted a shade of white that looks like an old newspaper. Everything is genteely shabby. The doctor is a young man -- maybe 30. He charges $60 for the first visit and $50 for subsequent visits. He is the entire staff. He has two treatment rooms and they seem to be busy almost constantly.

Just like at an MD or DO office, he had me strip down to my underwear and put on a silly gown that he pushed out of the way to get at the place he needed to put pins in.

It was a fairly simple procedure. The doc asked where it hurt. I showed him. He pressed on the area to confirm that he had the right spot. Yes, that hurts. OUCH. Then he poked very thin needles in. Since these needles go in the back of my hip joint I couldn't see what was going on, but from the sound, I think he used a hammer to get them in quickly.  The first visit, I just lay on my belly with needles sticking in me. Afterwards, the doc told me to go to my gym and use the inner and outer thigh exercise machine with 30 lbs for 20 reps each inner and outer, every other day and come back next week.

I didn't feel like anything had happened when I left, but by evening, the pain in my hip joint was definitely less, and I had greater flexibility. I could now get my left leg into yoga eagle asana.

I'm writing this just had my 2nd treatment.  This time, after putting the needles in, the doc attached something he called electricity. Again, I couldn't see it. But it made the needles wiggle around. It doesn't feel good, but it doesn't hurt as much as pressing my finger into the sore spot. It hurts a lot less than being examined by my rehab doc.

And afterwards, I told the doc that 30 pounds is nothing. I can press more.  He told me to try 40 lbs and work my way up to 80 if I can.  Okay! Geezer-chicks press weights with every part of their bodies.

And it pays to be stubborn. Eventually the universe will give up the information we need to get well.

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