Three In Twenty-Four

The human vertebral column has 24 bones called vertebrae.

A few years back, I managed to somehow move three of my lower cervical vertebrae (C5, C6, and C7) out of position.  It has resulted in chronic pain, mostly in my left trapezius.  It’s not uncommon for me to turn my head suddenly and feel as if someone is ripping my spine from my body.  The pain is unlike any other I’ve ever felt.

Back in September of 2011, just before I left Taiwan to go back to the USA for a while, I met a chiropractor after a Mercedes-Benz bounced me off my motorcycle and onto the pavement out in front of his shop.  My condition had existed before that and was probably from the time I hit a BMW and launched myself over it and into the intersection.  Spines do not like this sort of treatment.

So, I only had the chance to visit him once before I left, but now I’m back and am starting a whole program with him.  He is actually a Taiwanese practitioner of “Traditional Chinese Medicine,” (“TCM”) a trade I put little stock in.  That having been said, he alleviates a great deal of my concerns by expounding on the medicine he practices – he answers my questions when I want to know what he is doing, why he is doing it, and so on.  In fact, I am eating an herbal mixture upon his recommendation, based in his answer to my question, “Why?”  He said it would improve my circulation to my muscles and help repair the damage to my trapezius.

“Uh huh,” I said.

I mean, come on, right?  There’s a reason we don’t have apothecaries anymore.  Leeches are no longer common treatment for a reason!  However, I am a believer that using wide brush strokes is a bad thing, and if someone can convince me that their argument has merit, I am happy to give them a shot and see if they can talk or walk.

This guy walks.

I know this because he’s not like other TCM practitioners I have met in the past.  He’s first and foremost a chiropractor, but he’s cross-trained in everything from herbology to Qi Gong, while being careful to state he is not a master of such arts.  When I asked him what he thought about Qi Gong, he was not at all hesitant to say that some of it works and some of it is bullshit, and that Chinese Herbal Medicine can be the same way.

That was the end of the game, for me.  You find me a doctor that talks like that, anywhere, and I’ll sign up exclusively, regardless of the cost.  A doctor who recognizes the bullshit in the industry and explains what he is doing, to ensure I don’t see it as bullshit?  Sold!  I knew he was a good chiropractor, from my first treatment – because I could not stay and continue it, however, it just got worse and worse.  So I said, “Doc…you’re a good guy…you’re not a bullshitter…you tell me what’s up, and we’ll get it done.”

So, what’s up?

Here’s what’s up.

I have to go see him every day for the next week, then every other day for the week following.  After that, we’ll re-assess my spine and see if it is holding position better.  At this point, my vertebrae is so accustomed to being out of position that it continues to pull out of place.  The massive inflammation of my trapezius doesn’t help the situation.  Each treatment starts with ten minutes of neck/shoulder massage, then a side-to-side neck crack to position the vertebrae, and then ten minutes of “cupping.”

What is cupping?

Cupping is the process of applying small glass cups to the skin and decreasing the pressure inside, creating a vacuum.  It used to be done with fire – now, they just use a vacuum pump.  Around ten two-inch-wide cups are placed all around my left shoulder and pull my muscle every which way but loose.  It leaves a bunch of two-inch bruises (think of really big hickies), which is not muscle bruising as much as superficial issues of the blood getting sucked closer to the skin (though I’m sure the muscle is getting it’s fair share of a work-out).

On top of this, I am taking a TCM herbal mixture.  Oh, yes.  Me.  The naysayer.  I have to eat a powder of 7 different herbs three times a day, and to give you an accurate representation of what it’s like, all you have to do is go to YouTube and check out any “cinnamon challenge” on there.

OK, it’s not quite that bad.  But it’s disgusting.  I put the stuff in my mouth, chased it with water, and really had to suppress my gagging.  It actually reminded me of a time me and a cousin eat spoonfuls of nutmeg, as we had heard it had hallucinogenic properties (ah, to be young and dumb and full of nitrous oxide).  It tastes just like a tablespoon of nutmeg.  Three times a day.  Fun fun fun.

So I’ve got him for 20 minutes every day starting at 10:30am.  For the entire two-week program – nine treatments – plus the herbal mixture – it costs me a whopping $3,280NT – around $110US.  I get a total of three hours of chiropractor work, plus medicine to increase his effectiveness, for about as much as I’d pay for a mere two treatments in the USA – if I wanted to do this same program in the States, I’d never get the herbs (which I’m still not sold on, anyway, but I trust this guy a lot) and the chiropracty alone would cost me at least $400US.

I’ll let you know how it all goes.  I’ve got a lot of faith in this guy – he’s young and he really just doesn’t bullshit me, and I honestly can’t say that about most any doctors out in the world, especially those who subscribe to TCM.  My prejudice on TCM and even chiropracty is most certainly based in my Western perspective that most who practice it are quacks and “not real doctors,” but I know that’s bullshit, and if you’ve noticed anything about me here, it’s that I don’t like bullshit.  This guy is no bullshit.  I’ll let you know in two weeks whether I’m right, or not.

2 thoughts on “Three In Twenty-Four

  1. Pingback: What It's Like Living In Taiwan Without Medical Insurance

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