118. Let’s do the fiery cup thing! (Acupuncture & Cupping, Anyone?)

Josh at Karate Class Feb '12

Joshua at Class –  Feb ’12

I have made reference to Acupuncture Ed and what Acupuncture is supposed to look like, but I haven’t actually written about my experience thus far.  If you are considering Chinese Medicine, here’s my take on it.   Please just be aware of my disclaimer (click on the link and then scroll down to “Please note, esp if you’re sick”) and make sure to do your own research and choose the treatment that is best for you.  Here’s something I learned in my own research to get you started: an important designation to look for is “L.Ac,” or “licensed acupuncturist.”  Wikipedia told me that in the U.S., “L.Ac.s generally receive from 2500 to 4000 hours of training in Chinese medical theory, acupuncture, and basic bioscience. The amount of training required for healthcare providers who are not L.Ac.s varies from none to a few hundred hours, and in Hawaii the practice of acupuncture requires full training as a licensed acupuncturist.”  Fascinating, no?  Apparently there’s also a Master’s Degree you can get from the national commission, and there might be other desirable designations to look for, but in my case, I needn’t have worried since CMD has all sorts of professional recognition and a lot of street cred, too.

I started acupuncture a couple of months ago.  I had often thought of it since I got sick but this is the first time during my recovery that I was able to prioritize it.  I was too unaware of life in general when we first came home, and I couldn’t bear to go anywhere besides the doctor’s office when my leg got bad this past Summer, but now I’m in a position (emotionally and physically) to choose my own course of treatment, and I chose this.  It has almost been 2 years since my injury, and the sooner you start treatment the better – so I know I’m a little late to the party, but better late than never, right?  I found my CMD (Chinese Medicine Doctor) since she helped my Uncle (JE’s Dad) when he was here visiting from Malaysia and had a really bad back problem.  :/.  But the acupuncture really helped.  My Aunt also went since she was having knee problems, and got relief from those symptoms.  They referred me to CMD and it was an excellent move – She’s got umpteen years of experience gained on 3 different continents and in settings ranging from hospital to private practice and it wasn’t hard for a newbie like me to tell that she knew what she was doing.  Otherwise I wouldn’t let her near me with needles/fire/electricity.

That’s right, I said “fire.”  Not only does CMD do acupuncture, she does cupping, moxibustion and herbal medicine.  Cupping and moxibustion are where the fire comes in.  She’s only done moxibustion on me once, but cupping happens pretty much during every visit.  During my first appointment I was lying face-down on the treatment table so I couldn’t really see what was going on.  Then I heard a large ripping sound.  The cup makes the ripping sound when it comes off of your skin since the vacuum created by burning up all the oxygen in the cup prior to putting it on your skin is being broken.  “What’s that?” I asked. “That’s cupping,” said CMD.  “Ooh, this is like Karate Kid with Jackie Chan!” I informed CMD.

She hadn’t seen it.  So much for my pop culture reference.  I am talking about the recent (a few years ago) remake of the 80’s classic.   Jackie Chan is Mr. Miyagi to Jaden Smith’s Daniel-san.  When Dre (the karate kid) gets pummeled by a bunch of bullies early in the film, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) rescues him and does cupping to relieve Dre’s pain.  At the end of the movie there’s the classic tournament scene where the Bad Teacher tells his student to break Dre’s leg.  Dre ends up lying on a table and tries to convince Mr. Han to help him return to the tournament to fight.  C’mon, Dre urges, let’s do the fiery cup thing!  But Mr. Han is distressed and wishes Dre would just concede and not end up with a more serious injury.  Why, he asks, does Dre feel so obliged to fight?

Dre pauses for a moment and tells Mr. Han, “Because I don’t want to be scared anymore.”  No matter what happens (win or lose), Dre just wants to be able to leave the building without looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life.  Jackie Chan is convinced by the boy’s answer to get out his cups, light a flame, and then Dre limps back out to the mat to win the fight and the respect of his tormentors.

So that is how I found out what cupping is.  I think cupping has gained more of a mainstream presence lately and acupuncture is already there.  If you’re wondering, the needles usually don’t hurt.  If I make the slightest sound of discomfort, CMD immediately notices and adjusts accordingly.  This usually happens in the non-often event that a needle touches a hair follicle.  Otherwise, I feel a tiny prick (like a rubber band snap) when the needle goes in, and then I can forget about it once it’s there.

I have extremely uncooperative veins.  I tried to donate blood once at Intel and I’m not kidding – 3 or 4 people came and went on the opposite side of the Red Cross bus while I was still lying there, trying to squeeze out the minimum unit for donation.  A RCWorker even had to hold my arm for the last 10 minutes to aid drainage.  In the hospital, putting an IV in was routinely difficult.  I used to amuse myself during breaks at The Place by counting the holes in my wrists, but I gave up after a while since there are too many holes and I didn’t want to strain my eyes.

In general, I don’t like being poked (example:  being scoped by the PDG/ENT), so it’s heavily ironic that I have willingly signed up to be poked A LOT – 3x/week, and more recently, 2x/week.  I am willing to do this since I think treatment has had positive effects thus far – give me a while to solidify the results and I’ll report back.  After the poking, CMD will usually attach some leads from a little box that generates an electrical current to the needles.  She’ll find a level suitable for me and then I get to rest.  I like that part – you get to lie there while the needles etc. work their magic.  I get good naps in – that’s what I mean when I say I’m usually able to forget about the needles.

Just so I’m aware, though, CMD will remind me if I have needles in my head/arm etc. so I’ll be careful not to fall into such a deep sleep that I touch them accidentally.  (Side note:  Your experience with acupuncture might be more of a needles-only proposition.  Since I have quite a few issues, though, I think I’m getting the whole enchilada.)  I’ll often do the tricks NP4 taught me to help myself relax and not get stressed out by the treatment.  Relaxation is critical for me since, like Dre, I don’t want to be afraid anymore, either.  What happened already happened – and whatever happens in the future will be okay, too.

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7 thoughts on “118. Let’s do the fiery cup thing! (Acupuncture & Cupping, Anyone?)

  1. Ning, you’re my hero, seriously. And yes, I have heard very good things about acupuncture. Definitely praying that the “whole enchilada” helps you.

    Also, I’ve never seen Karate Kid (the old or the new… shameful, I know!), so I’m glad to get such a good summary here.


  2. Thanks for giving us more info on acupuncture and your particular experience thus far. I think for many people, it’s still unfamiliar territory, so it’s neat to hear about it from someone who’s going through it right now and is seeing good results. Funny you talk about the Karate Kid movie – we just saw it for the first time! I don’t remember what Daniel-san’s answer was in the original movie, but I really liked Dre’s answer to Mr. Han about not wanting to be scared anymore. Great post, Ning – thanks! XOXOs

    p.s. Of course, I’m partial to my lil’ karate kid in the pic above 🙂

  3. I love that you mention acupuncture as naptime. That’s *exactly* why I love it so much. It’s one of the few times I actually can do the power nap thing without spending the rest of the day/night in bed 🙂

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