Monday, December 17, 2012

TCM and other medical voodoo

So I haven't written much about my stay in Singapore so far.  I meant to write all about the amazingness of my new location, parts of my new school, and so forth.  But, truth is, life in Singapore is fairly mundane and it's easy to hop into the routine of it all.  At least until your health goes in the pooper.  Then it's interesting for sure!

Since October, I've been suffering from a really sore lower back and ever increasing muscle spasms.  At first I thought it was because I wasn't active enough and so I got more active, nope... that wasn't the answer.  Then I chalked it up to my weight... nope, not the cause but it sure isn't helping matters much. Then I thought it must be the chair I have at school since the spasms happen most often after sitting, nope... that wasn't it either but the sitting sure wasn't helping either.  So I found a groupon (if you have this in your city, get on it... it's an awesome resource) for chiropractic treatments (which are really, really expensive in Singapore).  I snapped that up as quickly as I could.

When I got to the chiropractor, she took the time to educate me about my spine during the consultation, ordered X-rays (which were $250 extra) and explained a course of action after putting me through some bending tests and so on.  She also started adjusting and mobilizing my spine according to what the X-rays and her expertise said.  Only problem was that the spasms came back with a vengeance, as did headaches and over all body soreness.  I ended up taking a full day off work because I just wasn't mobile.  At one point, I spasmed on the table and couldn't move for 30+ minutes.  I was making some progress but my muscles were fighting it tooth and nail.  Then I had a spasm in my classroom chair at the end of the last day before the Christmas break.  I managed not to scream in pain (a huge feat, trust), but I couldn't move for over an hour.  All my admin saw, as did my TA, the school nurse, several teachers and support staff.  It was embarrassing, painful and frustrating.  But at the same time, I was so grateful to have people there to help me and sort things out.

This is where the hoodoo/voodoo of medicine in Asia began. One of my good friends and colleagues is a counsellor at my school and is also certified in tapping and body talk.  We had discussed these practices when I had a spasm back in October when friends were visiting and I'd since used the tapping a time or two to help calm myself etc.  I don't know if it ever worked or not, since I don't really know what I am doing.  But on the giant spasm day my friend did some body talk to help me with the stress of my body.  I'd love to say it worked but I was so stressed and in so much pain that I simply couldn't let go and let it do what it was meant to.  However, I did get the number for a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor.

TCM can mean a bunch of stuff but I was sent to him primarily for acupuncture since that seems to help relax muscles most.  One of my admin had used this doctor and avoided a back surgery because of the healing it brought.  I was willing to do anything and went the next day.  By the way, I'm TERRIFIED of needles so I wasn't relishing this at all. The needles aren't too bad (although the one in my wrist today made me squeal and burst into tears), but the follow-up acupressure is excruciating.  The doctor hits all your medians of energy or chi and presses on parts that are blocked etc.  It hurts, let me be clear about that... really, really hurts.  But when the treatment is over and I've stopped sobbing, I'm able to get up walk around and even sit with some measure of comfort, which I haven't had in weeks.  Today, my voodoo doctor gave me some Chinese medicine to help speed the healing process.  When I asked what's in it, he just smiled, laughed and told me it was good for me.... hm... *shoulder shrug* Who am I  to argue with the doctor?

So there you go, in the Western world you don't often get the option of choosing between traditional, alternative or Eastern medicine practices.  That's one thing about Asia that I love.  You can choose from all of these and it's just considered normal here.  Let's hope that the TCM does the trick for my back... and just for my general health.

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