Sunday, September 18, 2011

Well, That Was Different...

If you've read this blog for any period of time, say, the last three months, you undoubtedly remember my tale of woe and sorrow about nature attacking me in Yosemite back in July. I took a fall, scraped my arm, bruised my posterior, and wrenched my shoulder. The scrape healed, and the butt-bruise faded with time. My shoulder, however, decided it wanted to be a continuing problem.

Since the fall, I've been telling myself that I should go to the doctor and get it checked out. Of course, I put it off, and then put it off again, and then again. It was certainly easy enough for me to come up with a compelling reason to not go to the doctor. My shoulder would hurt if I moved it the wrong way, or if I somehow managed to give it a good wrenching.

While in Seattle, that's exactly what happened. I leaned back in the desk chair in my hotel to get a bottle of water out of the refrigerator. I lost my balance, and caught my self with my left arm. When I did that, it felt like someone was jamming a hot knife into my shoulder.

The pain subsided, and it went back to being nothing more than the dull ache I'd felt since July. I thought nothing of it and, once again, managed to convince myself that I didn't really need to go to the doctor. I can be a persuasive guy.

Well, that changed two days after I got home. I started to notice the ring finger and pinkie on my left hand going numb. They weren't completely numb, but certainly numb enough to get my attention. I went through the automated appointment system with my HMO, but the appointment was a week from that day. Not being willing to wait and see how bad it would get in that week, I made an appointment for that same day, the Sunday before Labor Day, at the HMO's urgent care clinic. The diagnosis was a torn tendon in my shoulder, and the "fix" would be anti-inflammatories; in this case, Naproxen. I was advised to keep my appointment for a week later with my regular doctor, and have a nice day.

So, last Monday, I go see Dr. Bluck. He's a nice enough kid, but he seemed intent on wanting to focus on the fleeting pain I feel every so often as opposed to my concern, which is the numbness I feel all the time. He talked of MRI's, cortisone shots (which I have zero interest in) and, potentially, surgery. In the meantime, though, he gave me a "Shoulder's Owner Manual" (yes, really), and gave me some exercises to do. He seemed confident that I would start feeling better.

Well, I didn't.

While the numbness didn't seem to get any worse, it most certainly wasn't getting any better. Given what I do for a living, this could become an issue. So, it seemed time to look into "alternative" medicine. In this case, the alternative medicine came at the recommendation of my pool guy, Eric. His recommendation?

Acupuncture.

Now, I have to be completely honest here. I've always been one of those people who viewed acupuncture not as the ancient Chinese medicine that it is but, rather, as voodoo magic. I just never bought into it. But, for some odd reason, I agreed to give it a shot. Who knows? Maybe it might work.

I get to the acupuncturist at 11:50am for a noon appointment today. I had to fill out some forms before "the treatment" which, because it was my first time, was expected to take about two hours. So, paperwork filled out, it was off to the table.

Now, as I saw it, I was here for my shoulder. I expected, at most, to take off my shirt. Ah, but that just would not do. My shirt, shoes and socks needed to come off. Apparently, acupuncture needs to occur all over the body.

I laid on my back first, and the acupuncturist started dotting my skin with an alcohol swab. I was confused. Why would she be swabbing it on the tops of my feet?

Oh, what fun this would be.

By the time she was done, I had one needle in my right hand, two in my left, one in the top of each foot, four in my stomach, three in my left pectoral muscle, and five; count 'em, FIVE in, of all places, my left ear. Even if I'd always believed that acupuncture was legitimate, I never would've expected to get five needles in my left ear, because that's just weird.

The acupuncturist left the room after all the needles were in, and came back about 20 minutes later. She pulled them all out, dabbed away some small spots of blood here and there, and then had me lay on my stomach. The table, to me, was essentially like a massage table, so there was a cutout into which I could put my face and gaze down upon the wonderful brown tile floor.

I'm not entirely sure how many needles I got this time around, but it was well over 20. I had them all over my left shoulder, around the base of my neck, down my spine, and then what seemed like just random spots around my upper back. She even ran electric current through some of them to stimulate the muscles. It was weird:



After about another 20 minutes, the acupuncturist came back into the room, killed the electric current, and removed the needles. She then massaged my back with "regular" massage oil, and then she hit me with this super Chinese deep-tissue-massage-and-it-heats-up-when-it's-used massage oil. It didn't just heat up, it got almost uncomfortably hot. But, still, it felt good, especially after spending the better part of an hour as a pin cushion.

Did it work? Hell, I have no idea. She said it could be a day or two before I start to notice any difference and, perhaps, there would be no difference at all, in which case I would do a follow up visit at some point.

I'm still taking the Naproxen, and I'm still doing my goofy little shoulder exercises, but those things are downright normal compared to what I did this afternoon.

I'll give it another shot, though; one more, if need be... 

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