A visit to the acupuncturist

All things considered, I’m pretty healthy for my age. But occasionally I get nagging signs of what’s likely to come. In particular, my whole left side seems to be slowly seceding from the right. (Or maybe it’s the other way around.) All my physical problems are on my left – a pinched something in my neck, an aching shoulder, a bad knee, an elbow I can violently crack at will, and, on very rare occasions, my little two fingers will go numb.

I mentioned this to my friend Lucie and she suggested I get acupuncture. In fact, she said, she knows where to go and would take me there. So we went yesterday to a place in Haeundae. Strangely enough, on the morning I was to go, I woke up with a stuffed left ear. Whenever this happens to me, I know what’s coming later – ringing in the ear. I had a lot of ear infections when I was young and I subject myself to a lot of loud music, so this happens from time to time.

Right as we got out of the taxi at the clinic, the ringing kicked in. So this was the new, more pressing thing to tell the doctor. Ringing in the ears freaks the shit out of me. It’s as if god is hitting me right where he knows he can punish me. I’m terrified of getting tinnitus, which at best is maddening and at worst can lead to suicide.


We walked in to a very clean and stylish waiting room overlooking the beach. As far as I understand it, Korea has modern medicine hospitals and clinics, and then it also has traditional medicine clinics. This was obviously the latter. There were holistic health posters framed in clean glass on the walls, nice couches and chairs, hippy teas to drink, and a glass display of various herbs and roots that looked like something you’d find in a museum. Through Lucie, I filled out a rather embarrassing form asking detailed questions about my body, focusing particularly on my defecation tendencies.

The nurse called us to the desk and Lucie translated for me. She said I could just get the acupuncture, or for a fee I could get a “body test” that would tell me which of eight body types I have. I thought that sounded interesting and also figured it’s probably better that they understand the migook’s body before they begin poking needles into it, so I said sure.

Inside the body test room, there were a few patients waiting and about four or five doctors doing various things. The woman currently being tested was sitting on a chair. She held what looked like a small, white package. A man in a white coat stood and held her other hand. He in turn had his right arm raised toward the face of another man in a blue uniform. The man in the blue uniform did some sort of strange motion to this other man’s right hand. It was strange, as if the doctor in the middle was channeling the woman’s energy toward the other doctor.

My test was different. I was told, through Lucie, to sit down and put my forearms on a table palms up. The man told me to remove all metal from my body, like coins and my necklace. On the table sat more of these white packages and a series of index cards. I was instructed to remove my glasses and close my eyes. The doctor then placed these variously weighted packages into my right hand while he spun a weighted chain over my left wrist and hand (as Lucie later described). He repeated this by placing the index cards in my right hand. While this went on, the doctor asked Lucie questions about me – where I’m from, what I do for a living, how she knows me, etc. Lucie later said that the weighted chain spun differently depending on which weight or card was in my right hand.

A nurse gave Lucie a sheet of paper and led us to the acupuncture room. There were about eight raised body-sized mattresses with small pillows. A box of tissues sat by each bed. I figured that was for the occasional mistake, which gave me a brief mental shudder. The paper Lucie had described my body type. Turns out that she and I are the same. It listed what kinds of foods are okay for me (coffee, tomatoes, zucchini, beef, etc, etc, etc.), and which foods I should avoid (sam-gyup-sal, spinach, seafood, etc, etc, etc.). It also described my behavior type – sensitive, emotional, creative. Then there was an odd itemization of health advice – surround myself with the color red, only take warm showers, etc.

Then came the acupuncture, which wasn’t the acupuncture I’ve seen in pictures. Instead of sticking the needles into my skin, this method was to kind of jab me with them. They only did this to my lower legs and feet, and upper arms and hands. I can’t say it was pleasant, but it didn’t hurt. It lasted all of 10 minutes.

The next step was a conversation with the doctor. He said the ringing in my ears could be one of two things – my neck and shoulder muscles are constricting the nerves, or I have a kidney problem. I wanted to ask if it could simply be an iPod turned too loud, and also about my shoulder and fingers and other left-side problems. But he was in a hurry and kind of ushered us out the door. But he told me to come back and get more treatments every day until the ringing in my ear stops. So I’ll go again today.

He also told me I was in good health and that I have a good energy. That, for whatever it’s really worth, was at least nice to hear.

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2 Responses to “A visit to the acupuncturist”

  1. Red? I don’t ever remember seeing you wear red.

  2. […] the new adventure in treatments is acupuncture. I’ve done a bizarre version of it before, but nothing happened. This time I wanted to go someplace with some reputation. Dong-eui Hospital […]

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