PUMPING IRONY: Sins and Needles

The past few days have been pretty eventful: I wrenched my back while channeling Marty Gallagher in The Pit last Thursday — barbell squats with 120 lbs resting behind my neck (what was I thinking?). And then, on Monday, back in The Pit (I know what you’re thinking, but no, I skipped the barbells), I did something to… Read more »

The past few days have been pretty eventful: I wrenched my back while channeling Marty Gallagher in The Pit last Thursday — barbell squats with 120 lbs resting behind my neck (what was I thinking?). And then, on Monday, back in The Pit (I know what you’re thinking, but no, I skipped the barbells), I did something to my left shoulder while doing tricep extensions with 40 lbs worth of dumbell. I don’t think it’s serious, but something popped right on top of the shoulder.

A brief digression: That’s where the shoulder was slightly dislocated about 10 years ago after this woman opened her door on me and my bicycle as I was speeding to work. I went right over the handlebars and executed a nifty somersault, landing on my left shoulder and thus allowing my unhelmeted (yeah, yeah, I know . . .) head to avoid a collision with the pavement. I heard a distinctive “pop” when my shoulder made contact with the road and as I collected myself on the curb, I tested its range of motion, telling the distraught woman who precipitated the acrobatics that I was fine. No, no need to call an ambulance, I said as I got to my feet — a little too soon, it turned out, as I promptly passed out and cracked my unhelmeted head on the now satisfied pavement. When I came to, the distraught woman was still there, more distraught now than ever, given that my head was sitting in a pretty impressive pool of blood. The ambulance arrived and the EMT guys transported me to a nearby emergency room, where some doctor cleaned me up and closed my wound with a few staples (!?!?!). My shoulder was still sore, and I told him that I thought maybe I had dislocated it. He took a look and said something about how if it really was dislocated, I’d know it. I told him I was pretty sure something was wrong, and maybe it should be x-rayed or something. He said if it really was dislocated, I’d know it. And so on. I went home and looked at it in the mirror and noticed that it was clearly sitting lower on my body than my right shoulder was. You could plainly see where the collarbone should be connected to the top of the shoulder, except that it wasn’t. (Check out this illustration.)

Anyway, I never went back for a second opinion and, while the shoulder still looks a little funky, it seems to be in perfect working order. Until Monday and my 30 reps with 40 lbs. It’s still a bit sore, so I’ll just take it easy — and watch for car doors. My back is fine today. Thanks for asking.

All of this has nothing at all to do with my first-ever visit to an acupuncturist yesterday — though I have no doubt that the folks at Three Treasures Community Acupuncture could take care of my shoulder and back with a few well-placed needles. The whole community acupuncture deal is pretty cool; it makes acupuncture accessible to a much broader range of the population than more conventional practices. At Three Treasures, you schedule your own appointments, pay what you can afford, and sidestep the whole health insurance morass. It’s all right up my old anarchist alley.

Still, I’m a little squeamish around needles — and healthcare personnel in general — so it took some
convincing by My Lovely Wife for me to even check the place out. She’d had a session many years ago with a very nice needle-wielder when she was fighting a nasty and prolonged respiratory illness, and it seemed to work out pretty well for her. So, I really had no excuse but to give it a try.

Besides, this constant ringing in my ears (tinnitus) is starting to bug me. For the past couple of years or so, I’ve been putting up with it, just figuring that, at some point, it would disappear as mysteriously as it arrived. But it’s still in my head, like a swarm of cicadas on a sweltering August afternoon, and I’m beginning to wonder if it’s going to start messing with my already faulty hearing (isn’t aging great!). Western medicine doesn’t seem to have many answers, but I’ve read that acupuncture can be effective.

So, I hopped on my bike yesterday afternoon and pedaled across the river to Three Treasures, where a
nice young woman named Katherine listened to my woeful tale of the trapped cicadas in my skull. Then she stuck a bunch of needles into my hands, arms, legs and feet while I reclined in a comfy Lazy-Boy and looked at the ceiling. (Frankly, the idea of a Lazy-Boy without TV and a beer takes some getting used to.) Pleasant New-Agey music wafted through the room, which contained several other Lazy-Boys — each containing a sedate person with needles sticking out of various appendages.

The idea, Katherine explained, is to simply lay there for an hour and relax while my qi is quietly rearranged in a helpful way. It seemed like a tall order to me, and I began counting the various New Agey tunes as a way to keep track of the time, figuring maybe 20 of these would take about 60 minutes. Pretty soon, though, I noticed I was becoming one with my Lazy-Boy, and sinking happily into a nice little meditative state. A little itch arose on my cheek, which I observed until it faded away. The insides of my elbows started to feel a bit achy, but that too passed. The needle sticking somewhere near the pinky on my right hand was pulsing. A while later, I noticed it had stopped.

It went on like that for a time: small things creeping into my consciousness then fading away. I might have dozed. Then, at some point, I distinctly felt my chest opening, like something heavy had been removed. This was intriguing.

Meanwhile, the cicadas were still singing, but the noise, which tends to be centered between my ears, had moved noticeably upward — more toward the top of my head. I took this to be a good sign, and mentioned it to Katherine when she pulled the needles out of my skin. She agreed, noting that any such activity is encouraging.

She suggested I return a couple of times next week and the week after, so I made the appointments before pedaling home (into a nasty gale from the south). My ears were still ringing on the way home — though it tends to be less noticeable in a gale — and today the cicadas are having a real party, but I have no allusions that this is going away after a single treatment. I’ll get needled again next week and see what happens. It can’t hurt.

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