Home > Greatest Hits, Humor, Stories and Tales., Stuff that's Happened to Me. > Koreans do a poor Chinese impression: The Acupuncture Story.

Koreans do a poor Chinese impression: The Acupuncture Story.

(orginally posted February 9th, 2009)

So, my right ankle is not that well off from fracturing my growth plate in grade 9 after coming down from a spike in a volleyball game onto John Herron’s foot. Also, I (speculatively) inherited my grandmother’s ankles, who was just recently told by her doctor that her ankle was worn out and couldn’t be fixed. All that to say, sometime this past summer (2008) I was playing on my rec-league once-a-month Korean soccer team, and I turned my ankle pretty good. It was in rough shape, but I managed to walk it off, and finish the game. The next day it had doubled in size and tripled in colors.

I showed to our school’s director, who offered to take me to the hospital. Now, from experience, this is generally nothing more than a job for Rest Ice Compression Elevation (RICE, if you will); nothing I haven’t encountered plenty of times before. But I figured, whatever, maybe get an x-ray just in case, see what’s going on in there. So off we went the next day to what turned out not to be a hospital at all. In the car, I was informed that I was now being taken to a Chinese Acupuncture clinic. Suprisingly, I didn’t have a problem with this, as I was now picturing extremely relaxed people lying face down in bed at a spa with a bunch of needles in their back, and all the combined surface area pain overloading the brain’s pain sensors, and cancelling itself out. I thought, ok, maybe this could be alright, lets see how they roll over here, maybe they know something North Americans don’t about healing. It was only a few bucks anyways, and I had always been intrigued by acupuncture.  I truly had no idea what I had got myself into.  

I was ushered into the little consultation room to have some sort of assessment that I didn’t understand because it was all being spoken in Korean. Next I was instructed to head to the next, smaller room, and sit on the table dressed in the butcher paper. After some more Korean conversation, things got underway in a hurry. The doctor grabbed my left hand (I remind you, the injury was my right ankle), and promptly inserted a 2-3″ needle into my flesh, right around my scaphoid (where your thumb meets your hand), twisted it around, told me, in my best translation, to “chill.” He then trodded off on his doctorly way. So there I am, by myself, with a huge needle in my hand, not moving because I’m frightened of stabbing my inner hand somewhere, and absorbing all the pain possible that comes with having ONE needle jammed into you, rather than the above mentioned multiples, and also chuckling a little to myself over the complete absurdity of what was happening to me. You can imagine what was going through my mind. Also, the doctor did come back occasionally to twist and turn the needle to and fro, and to send it in deeper, while I sent my incisors deeper into my right knuckles. Did I mention my RIGHT ankle was hurt, and there was a needle in my LEFT….THUMB??!!?? Eventually, 10 or 15 minutes passed, and the doc removed the needle, which seemed to have ended up about 4-5″ in there now. I thought the insanity was over. I was wrong.

I was then told through translation to lie down and the doctor grabbed my actual ankle. I thought, ok, he’s actually going to do something directly to it now. I was right. Moments later, a device surfaced that I can only describe as a stabbing gun. It was a glue gun shape, and there was one, or maybe seven needles sticking out of the end. My wonder had very little time to evolve to fear as my swollen ankle was promptly STABBED approximately 20 times in 10 seconds with said puncturing device. I’m going to need stitches in my knuckles at this point. There was so much shock running through me that I was seriously laughing at how comical it was was, perhaps a defence mechanism against the pain. After the aerating of my ankle was complete, they wheeled in another device; this time a vaccuum-sucker-pump of sorts (these are all technical medical terms I don’t expect you to be familiar with), which is then applied to my wounds, and the blood, now leaking from the holes, was sucked out for a few minutes. They eventually took it off me and told me to stand up, and that they were finished. They asked me how I felt, and I said, “Good,” only in hopes of concluding the visit. I made my way to the front counter to sign something, and they said, “Ok, see you tomorrow!” Well, my mouth said yes, but my mind broke out in hysterics. I grabbed a candy from the dish, and got out of there, as quick as conditions were allowing me. I did not go back the next day.

Also, on the topic of the title, Koreans make bad chinese food.

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  1. August 4, 2009 at 11:02 am

    That’s hilarious!!! I have a friend who smashed his thumb with a hammer, and when his thumb swelled up the doctor drilled through his nail and blood spurted everywhere from the built up pressure. He said it felt tremendously better. Maybe that’s what your “doctor” was thinking???

    • davecunning
      August 4, 2009 at 3:08 pm

      It’s possible the lines got crossed somewhere; there sure was a lot of talking in a language I didn’t understand, and then translation back to me. The “doctor” did eventually give my ankle some sadistic attention, so who really knows???

  2. August 11, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    They did Korean Hand Therapy, as well as bleeding cupping. They treated your left thumb area, because anatomically, it matches up with your right ankle. It’s called the ‘X’ pattern. Treat the opposite limb. It typically works well. They used a 7-star needle to ‘bleed’ the ankle, which had blood stagnation from the damage to the tissue and any over-icing that you had done. Asian practitioners are typically very aggressive (that is, they won’t mind causing pain.) If you had gone back for 3-4 more sessions I suspect your ankle would be about 80%.

    Personally, I practice Painless Acupuncture, which is modified for the western individual. I recently had a patient who tore his biceps tendon. I treated him once for it, gave him an herbal liniment to rub, and when he went to his PA, he was told that the injury was healing incredibly fast. He was 3-4 weeks ahead of schedule. This morning he told me, that two weeks after tearing his tendon, he doesn’t feel like it’s been injured at all. His arm is back to normal.

    Sorry you had a painful introduction to Chinese medicine. It’s a shame.

    • davecunning
      August 11, 2009 at 7:17 pm

      Thanks for the insight Akemi, I’m really glad you wrote in and responded to the story. Now I actually know just what in the world they were doing to me. It sounds there is a little logic to it. I never had a word of english spoken to me while it was being done, so you could see why I was so lost.
      I like the sound of your painless method a lot better. Perhaps I’ll get in touch with you next time I wreck myself. It is too bad I had a bad first experience with acupuncture, but at least it makes a good story for a western reader!

  3. Donna
    August 24, 2009 at 10:22 am

    This is funny. I am an acupuncture student who just sprained my ankle and looking for a good acupuncture protocol (there are many styles, many different types of treatments one can use) and read this post. Akemi explained it very well. The treatment makes sense to me. We do a lot of mirroring treatments. e.g. If the problem is on left, we treat the right; if it’s on lower body, we treat the upper body. etc.)
    But I completely understand that what we take for granted (7-star needles, bleeding etc) can seem like bizarre torture devices to someone who come across it for the first time. It’s good to hear about the acupuncture treatment from your perspective. This taught me to really mind my bedside manner when I treat patients for real in the future. Hope your ankle feel better.

    • davecunning
      August 24, 2009 at 7:59 pm

      Well if my pain is enough to save people in the future from a similiar fate, then I guess I’m happy. I can understand mirroring to a point, but left foot to right hand seems like a bit of a stretch to me. I’m sure there’s plenty of information I’m unaware of that makes enough sense to have kept the acupuncture practice going for the x-number of thousand years it has. I think communication is the biggest thing between doctor and patient to decipher the difference between a percieved torture method, and perfectly rational medical procedure. Here’s to many return patients on your part!

  4. becky
    September 12, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    The same thing happened to me for my first, and last so far, acupunture encounter. The old lady didn’t tell me what she was going to do, stuck big needles in both temples and then used the cupping machine to suck out the blood. I was totally freaked out. She then proceeded to beat the crap out of me…digging her fingers underneath the bones in my arms and then rubbing really hard. I went in for treatment for headaches, lack of sleep and back issues. I didn’t have a headache when I came, but left with an incredible migraine from all the pain and stress she caused. Might not have been nearly as bad if she warned me and explained what was going on. Anyway, I share your experience. It has nothing to do with Koreans doing Chinese acupunture wrong though. It’s just not what most of us understand acupunture to be.

    • September 12, 2010 at 9:41 pm

      yikes, that sounds way more painful than my experience. At least they were speaking english to you. Maybe the thinking was that if they gave you an even bigger pain than the others you were currently experiencing, that they others might no longer be felt because your brain was too busy trying to heal the biggest current problem. Who knows. I think there’s some scientific foundation in there somewhere, but it can be tough to detect…

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