I went to an acupuncturist for the first time last week. I’ll understand if you’re skeptical; I am too. Nonetheless, I plan on returning for three more visits to see if it will help the pain in my elbow. I have tendonitis, tennis elbow to use the vernacular, and two weeks of Ibuprofen, three times a day, did nothing to alleviate the pain. When I realized that this condition could be with me for months, I decided I had to try to find something to make it bearable.
The acupuncturist is a nice enough woman. A Caucasian, she reinvented herself after giving up a stressful career in high tech. Her bedside manner is a bit lacking, but if she’s successful I’ll happily forgive her. Apparently there isn’t a prescribed pattern of needles for tendonitis, so she opted to treat me for my auto-immune disease, anxiety, and arm pain. Based on the results, she’ll tweak the needle placement on subsequent visits.
I slept better that night than I had in a while. Was it the acupuncture or a coincidence?
This weekend I watched a Chinese film called Farewell My Concubine. Set in Beijing, the story follows two opera singers from1924 through 1977. We see their lives under the rule of warlords, during the Japanese occupation, and through the Cultural Revolution; each era more alien and unfathomable to my Western sensibilities than the one before. But I understand and accept that these things happened, even if I can draw no parallels to my own experience.
To put things in a lighter perspective, if, when I weigh myself, the scale shows that I’ve gained weight, I curse my lack of self-control, and immediately begin plotting how to lose the weight. If, however, the scale says I’ve lost weight, I weigh myself again in disbelief. Why is one accepted without question, and the other subject to scrutiny?
My very limited understanding of acupuncture is that it stimulates the body to release steroids and endorphins. A Western doctor might give me a shot of cortisone, a steroid. If my body can be coaxed to produce its own, why not let it? And if it’s widely accepted that exercise causes your body to produce endorphins, which “react with opiate receptors to reduce our perception of pain,” isn’t it good to be able to do that without half an hour on the elliptical?
There are many things we learn to accept as truth without experiencing them on our own. Here’s one I can try for myself. I’ll let you know how it works.