Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Great Acupuncture Experiment

It was an interesting appointment today. By "interesting," I mean equal parts promising and weird.

I had picked the clinic based on its location (an area known for its expensive private speciality medical clinics--ie, the high rent district), and it's highly detailed and professional looking website. There were pictures of the practitioners, with detailed and impressive biographies. There was detailed treatment info, price lists, articles. When I called to make my appointment, a professional-sounding receptionist answered the phone with the clinic's name, asked what I wanted done, and scheduled my appointment. It seemed like the kind of place that you'd want to have acupuncture done.

And then I got there. First, there was no sign on the building. I rang the bell, but no one answered. Sure i had written the street number down wrong, I googled the clinic on my smartphone and called the number listed. But instead of answering with the clinic's name, the woman answered by saying the building address. She told me to push the door and come in. I entered into an oversized foyer, and made my way to what appeared to be reception. It was a large spare front room that reminded me of Dickens, with a large table in the middle covered in standard waiting room magazines. In one corner sat an old woman at a wooden desk. When I said I'd been standing out there and no one had answered the bell, she gestured toward a door release button and muttered something about having to run around the big place and not being near the door buzzer all of the time.

She gave me a form to fill out. It was on the clinic's stationary, and looked like a standard medical questionnaire. As I filled it out, though, a woman came in for her appointment. She said, though, that she was there for a "scan." The strange old woman behind the desk said "ah yes, for your visa," and sent her downstairs. When I brought my form back to the woman, she ignored me and kept chatting away with someone who appeared to work in the building. Although I knew the acupuncturist was waiting for me (he'd called), she left me sitting for a bit, and then he finally came out.

When we went into his office, it was a large room that looked much like any doctor's office. There was an examination table, which he kept referring to as a "couch", a desk and a few chairs. However, there were no certifications or identifying information whatsoever on the walls. Given the sharing arrangements even physicians have here, it wasn't entirely weird, but weird enough. It occurred to me that he could be absolutely anyone--the clinic had no signage, he had no documentation, and the office was entirely odd. Nevertheless, I hung in there.

He was a nice enough guy, and seemed knowledgeable about acupuncture. His wife co-edited a book about the use of acupuncture in pregnancy. He'd performed acupuncture on her in advance of her two births, and she had a 5 hour first labor and a 2 hour second labor. I had gone in for moxibustion, but he wanted to talk about acupuncture, in general, to consider me "holistically," as opposed to just in terms of turning the baby. As it turned out, the building doesn't allow the burning of the moxibustion materials, so he was only able to instruct me on how to use the moxibustion sticks and give me instructions. (Note: In coming days, I hope to post all of the aforementioned instructions on line, to save anyone interested the $100 "treatment" fee!). He did propose some acupuncture to help relax me and speed up labor. Since I was there anyway, I figured i might as well give it a go.

I sat in a chair, and he placed a needle in between my thumb and first finger, next to my pinkie toe, in between my big toe and second toe, and on the outside of my leg, just below the knee. The needles inserted next to my pinkie toes, while tiny, hurt going in, and one started to bleed. The ones in my hands felt like they'd gone in to the meat of my thumb, and were a bit uncomfortable after a while. Otherwise, I felt relaxed, but that could have been just from sitting in a quiet room alone for a bit. He left me alone for a while, periodically checking back to make sure I was okay.

A while later, he came back and removed the needles, saying that since it was my first acupuncture session, he didn't want to leave them for too long. I noticed that one of the ones next to my big toe had started to bleed. He threw the needles in a sharps container, and that was that. He recommended that I come back once a week until I deliver, gave me the moxibustion sticks and some instructions, and we were done. I paid the odd old woman at reception in cash, but got a (handwritten) receipt.

It was all very strange. But, I'm open to it working. We'll see what happens. I can't see myself going back there, but maybe it helped to do it today.

1 comment:

Heather said...

The two different acupuncturists I worked with had odd offices. It just seems to be a practice that stays pretty low key. I actually recognize the acupuncture points you mentioned. I've had all those spots done. It's an odd feeling some days it would actually feel a little uncomfortable at first. And yes, the one on my foot you described would bleed a drop after it was out. I wonder if because you are near the end of your pregnancy if it makes the feet more prone to bleeding. I'm curious to hear how it goes.