Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What's That? Wednesday: Acupuncture and TCM

The circles are from the cupping.
Jamie recently had his first TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) experience.  I threatened him with the prospect of writing a guest blog post, but we compromised and I interviewed him instead!

What made you seek out acupuncture (a form of TCM)?

I had a very sore back and neck for over two weeks and if I had been in the US, I would have gone to a chiropractor.

Before you went, what your expectations?

I didn’t know if it would be like a spa, a small room, or a big room full of people.  Because it was a Sunday and the doctor’s day off, I did know that I would be the only patient there.  And, I was grateful the doctor came in on his day off to treat me!  I was expecting needles and maybe cycle through some movements.  Instead, I showed the doctor where the pain was and he used his thumb, like a needle, to dig into the sore spots.

Tell me about the facility.

It was like a medical clinic.  There was a seating area, a check-in room and I took the elevator to the second floor to the TCM room.  The therapy room was an older, white room with windows that opened up to the busy street below.  There were mats or beds, almost like massage tables, lined up.  On the wall there were really cool, old acupuncture anatomical charts.  The desk had equipment lined up on it.

What kind of treatment did you receive?

The doctor and our friend that had arranged the treatment, had already talked about what pain I had been experiencing.  I took my shirt off and pointed to the spot.  The doctor draped a sheet over me and poked around until he found the spots where it hurt.  He mapped out the points along my neck, shoulder, and hand.  The doctor then put pressure along those points, let go, and tapped in a needle and then twisted.  He put 5 or 6 in my back and a couple in my arm.  The doctor, who only spoke Chinese, wanted to talk to my friend who had arranged the treatment, to see if I was okay with the needles being hooked up to electrodes.  Because I was lying on my side with needles sticking out of me, my driver laid the cell phone on my ear so I could talk to my friend.  I told the doctor it was okay, so he hooked up electrodes to the needles and turned up the current until it was really uncomfortable and ran the current for about 25-30 minutes.

I have visions of the experiments we did in high school with the frog legs and an electrical current! What did the current feel like and did it hurt?  

It forced my muscle to excite and then eventually it was exhausted and relaxed.  It hurt to a certain degree; it was uncomfortable.  (Interviewer’s note: at this point Jamie flicked my arm to make his point...thanks so much honey!)

Was there blood?

Yes, when the needles were pulled out and the doctor used alcohol swabs to clean them.

Did you receive any other treatment?

The doctor also took bamboo cups, held them over a flame to heat them up, and then covered the areas that had had the needles.  He left those on for 20-25 minutes.

Was it immediate relief?

Yes, it was.  I wasn’t as tense and knotted up.  About a week after the last treatment I felt considerably better.

Were you sore afterwards?

Yes, like a good workout.

How many times did you go?

Four times for the whole treatment.

Did anything shock or surprise you?

The doctor smoked during the treatment!

Would you recommend TCM?  

Yes, I would recommend this specific doctor or the recommendation from a reputable source.

What was the cost for all 4 treatments?

200 RMB (about $32 USD)

What were the doctor’s follow-up instructions?


Thanks to Jamie for being a good sport and letting me interview him on the high speed train to Beijing when he would have rather been doing something else!


  1. Glad he got good results, but the pics just look painful!

    1. I think it can be painful and as for the cupping, some have described it like putting a vacuum on your skin. I think I'll have to try it sometime!

  2. It is interesting to see how medicine works in other countries.

    1. I agree! There is so much to learn.

  3. It’s a good a thing that Jamie had good reviews regarding her acupuncture treatment, even if he preferred a chiropractor. After all, Acupuncture is also good in decreasing pain (i.e. arthritis, back pain, neck pain), through regulating the “qi” (vital energy) flow within the pathways by inserting thin needles.

    Erik Denmon