It was my worst fear times 10. I’ve never been a fan of blood work, vaccines or any other procedure having to deal with needles. But here I was, waiting in the lobby of Acupuncture Avenue. My fingers were dancing on my lap and I couldn’t quite get comfortable on the couch. There was an unfamiliar smell in the air; turns out it was incense. I could feel the anxiousness taking over my body. I was so nervous to think that there would soon be a bunch of little needles sticking out of me.
Peter Yeung, my acupuncturist, had a very calming aura. He took me into a room much similar to a conference room and asked me a series of questions about what kind of pain I was experiencing as well as questions about my diet, sleeping patterns and whether or not I had any digestive problems. At the same time he was checking my pulse, one wrist after another. This was because in traditional Chinese medicine, you can tell a lot about a person’s internal organs and energy levels from just their pulse.
We then walked into another room with acupuncture posters on the wall. There was a bed much like the one you sit on at a doctor’s office and a rack with what looked like rounded glass cups. I didn’t see any needles yet. I changed into a pair of basketball shorts and a hospital gown and Peter told me he was going to do cupping on me for my back and shoulder pain.
The purpose of cupping is to enhance circulation, help relieve pain and pull out the toxins that may linger in your body’s tissues. Cupping is when you light an alcohol soaked cotton ball on a stick on fire and place it in either a glass, bamboo or plastic cup which takes all the oxygen out. You quickly place it on the skin which acts as a suction cup.
I was laying on my stomach as he placed eight cups on my back. It was suppose to feel soothing and make me feel relaxed but laying on my stomach, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. He also placed a few thin needles on my shoulders and the back of my legs. The cups and needles were left on my back for 10-15 minutes. I could feel a tight sensations where the cups were pulling my skin up. It was starting to feel good. I closed my eyes and just tried to focus on my breathing.
Next thing I heard was Peter walking back in, I opened my eyes and realized I dozed off for a bit. He removed the needles and the cups. When the cups were lifted, I felt I regained my breath again. I turned over on my back and Peter put a couple of more needles in my legs and one particular needle in between my eyebrows on my forehead for calmness and to relieve stress.
I was left like that for another 20 minutes. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on my breathing again. I noticed there was soft, serene, music playing very low, which I hadn’t noticed it earlier since I fell asleep. I heard birds chirping outside the open window which was oddly peaceful. I couldn’t even feel the needles anymore. It was different from when he first put them in because at some points I could feel the needles going in but the feeling soon disappeared.
After Peter came back and took the needles out, I got up and changed back into my clothes. I looked at my back in the mirror and I was shocked at what I saw. There were huge, dark, red circles on my back.
“It looks like you made out with an octopus,” Kathryn Zamudio, our photographer, said.
I tried to focus on how I felt after it was all over. I felt like a lot of the tension in my back was lifted but not completely, though I know that it takes more than one session to feel lasting results.
So in my final thoughts, I probably wouldn’t go back again because I just couldn’t face the needles again. Traditional Chinese medicine is a lot different from Western medicine. Western medicine treats one’s symptoms and Chinese medicine tries to treat the root of the illness. It was an interesting experience and I’d say my favorite part was the cupping. I’m just not a fan of the marks it leaves that apparently will stay on my back for three days to a week. Awesome.