"Doctor, my back hurts!" "Auricular acupuncture might be the answer!" My recent home-visit by a TCM doctor
My sitting bone has been hurting for quite a while and when I travelled from the States to China in mid-September, I was in total agony. I could basically not sit down. Upon my return to China, I went to see my doctor who suggested I start physiotherapy. After each session, I would feel better for 24 hours – and then the pain would come back. At 1250 RMB per session (almost 200 euros – of which roughly half is covered by my medical insurance) I decided it was worth-while ty try other forms of treatment. My pilates teacher Sabina told me about a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor who does house visits and after a quick exchange of messages on WeChat, I made an appointment that same afternoon.
He started off by looking at my ears for about 5 minutes. Not inside my ears – but outside and explained that a lot can be understood from the ears. Then he asked me a number of questions about things like my sleep pattern, digestion etc.
He did not touch or massage my back at any stage – and I admit that I was dying for some magical cracking – but I kept an open mind as he suggested that we do cupping (placement of small, heated glass jars that create suction in order to relieve muscle tension, promote blood and lymph circulation and detoxify). Although I had had good results with cupping in the past, I kindly declined this time – simply because it leaves big red/blue marks on your back for about a week – and I was leaving for a beach holiday the next day. Vanity won – again.
Doctor Qu decided to use acupuncture first. He placed 2 needles in each leg and one needle in each arm. When acupuncture needles go in, you do not feel any pain. But when the doctor moves and twists them to detect the nerve pain, it hurts!
Next thing he took out a package of tiny metal spheres (also called auricular seeds) and started pressing them one by one into the cartilag of my ears. It wasn’t too painful – although my ears became burning hot and red once he had pressed all 22 spheres into my ears. He told me they would stimulate various points of my body and particularly my spleen. He then instructed me to touch the pearls as much as I could over the next few days in order to stimulate further.
You can check out this youtube link to see how the spheres work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72sQktS9RiU
Once the acupuncture needles were out, he placed a sticky herbal patch on my lower back. The patch needs to be heated up with a hairdryer in order to become soft and sticky. You need to take it off before showering – and then it can be reused three times.
Finally, I was given some herbal painkillers (Tong zheng capsules). I was instructed to take 4 tablets twice a day.
Did it help?
I suppose I was hoping for a miracle but the doctor did warn me that I might not see any improvement after one treatment. I must be honest: I did not feel any improvement at all and I did not follow doctor’s orders – something I am not proud to admit.
It was too uncomfortable to sleep on the side (as I usually do) with all the magnetic seeds in my ears. So I took them out after 24 hours. I also took off the patch – and again I forgot one important instruction: Bring tape so that you can get the residue off your back! I forgot so I ruined a new bikini completely after I had tried to scrub the sticky, dark brown mass off my back.
Finally, I just took the tablets twice – simply because I forgot.
I’m already in contact with Dr. Qu for a new appointment. I want to see if cupping will help me. I think one needs to be in the right mood when trying TCM. You need to believe in it, bear in mind that it's not a quick fix - and try to understand the culture behind it. I am ready for take two - with an open mind.
At the South-Western corner of Chaoyang park lies Park Apartments. A compound* like so many others in Beijing - but different. Many of Park Apartments' residents (including myself) chose this compound because of its location and great facilities (which I've described before on my blog) but it turned our that it came with the added bonus of a tight knit community. As residents we come together to lend a helping hand (or a pound of sugar), network, exchange DIY tips, look for playdates for our kids, advertise events, share our frustrations about the somewhat famous Chinese Chabuduo maintenance-style - and last but not least, we party together.
We're lucky to have a bar area in the lobby and we hold regular "come-and-meet your neighbours" potlucks for the grown-ups - but the kids also get their fair share of fun at the annual trick or treating at Halloween and egg hunt at Easter.
The glue that holds our community together is... (you guessed it) WeChat!
I'd like to show you some snippets from our conversations.
* a compound can be anything from a gated community to a high-rise building. Often with a high concentration of expat residents.