Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Can Acupunture Cure My Allergies? The Jury is Still Out, But I'll Try Anything!

A small measure of distrust in western medicine is a smart approach toward maintaining one’s health is my belief. For me the practice started years ago when I opted to give birth naturally and went up against the medical establishment and took an active role in the kind of treatment I received. I also became very interested in herbal medicine and did a lot of studying and experimenting on how to treat and cure health problems with what nature provides. While I’ve relaxed my stand about western medicine some now that I’m older and have come to appreciate the advances in medical technology and the benefits of certain medicines, I am still drawn to discovering alternative ways of dealing with health concerns. That’s how I found myself in the offices of an acupuncturist and came home looking like I’d been beaten with a baseball bat.

For several years now I have suffered from the allergies one inevitably becomes afflicted with living in the Mojave Desert.          

My particular problem is persistent and constant post-nasal drip. It is an insidious condition where, excuse my gross description, the mucussy blobs that would normally exit the nostril via a good nose blowing instead hang in the area of the throat that goes to the stomach with a swallow. In my case, however, the mass doesn’t move. No, it just hangs there like that uvula-thingy that is supposed to hang there. It drives me crazy and drives the people around me nuts, too. I try and ignore it, try not to clear my throat all day long, especially when I’m with others; when I do try and dislodge it I sound like Felix Unger, the annoying character from the Odd Couple.  Mistaking my hacking sound for a sneeze, I often get, “God Bless You.” I am grateful it sounds like a sneeze because I don’t want anyone to know I’m trying to cough up a booger-ball (kind of like a hairball, if I were a cat).

I’ve tried all sorts of remedies: pills (Allegra and most recently Claritin-D); neti-pot nasal flushing, 

A Neti-Pot
Yoga, inhaling steaming Eucalyptus leaves, and even in desperation shoot Nasonex up my nose; all to no avail. Nothing, nothing! helps! So a couple of years ago I decided to try something new.

Actually, I had come down with a nasty cold that involved my usual case of bronchitis. This was a bad one and my throat felt like I was swallowing broken glass. My husband had told me about a co-worker who had gone for acupuncture to treat allergies. I figured this was as good a time as any to establish a relationship with such a practitioner; if they can cure my illness they are sure to be able to help me later with my allergies. Fortunately, my insurance covered the visit so off I went. What an experience!

The medical office is located in a little building and inside the practitioners include Dr-Mr. and Dr-Mrs. Lo and their son, Dr. Lo, a chiropractor. I have always been interested in Chinese medicine so I was anxious to see what treatment I would receive. I was in a great deal of pain and could barely speak and tell them my symptoms so Dr. Lo (the woman) took me to a small room and got to work on me. This included pricking the nail bed of my thumbs; this is to get the blood flowing. It hurt but I am a willing, open-minded patient. Next, small acupuncture needles were inserted in various locations on my face, near my nose and forehead.

 Then, to my horror and utter discomfort (excruciating pain, actually) she instructed me to open my mouth and lift up my tongue. Using what I can only describe as an instrument that looks like those round needle-things used to test for TB on one’s arm, she punctured under my tongue – twice! What the heck? These methods, she explained in her Chinese-laden English accent were to help with the throat issue. As if this all weren’t strange, painful, and different enough, she had me lie down on the bed in the room. Before I did so, I had to take off my shirt. What next?

In she wheels a cart loaded with what looked like dozens of those little fish bowls you see holding goldfish at the carnival. She rubbed my back with what I assume was alcohol and then proceeded to ignite a lighter, wave the flame under the opening of the bowl and then slap it onto my exposed back. Many bowl-sucking sticks later (maybe ten, fifteen?), I was instructed to lie there and relax. Yeah, right. Lying on my stomach with needles sticking out of my face and cups drawing my skin tight I was supposed to relax?

I asked Dr. Lo to get a picture

But the optimist, open-minded part of me tried to concentrate my mind into healing me; after all, I’d put myself in the position and what choice did I have? I couldn’t move. Dr. Lo returned three times to remove, then reposition the many cups. Would it never end, I asked? This damn well better work, I said in my head.

Once released I was given an appointment for two days later. As my condition had not improved and I really wanted to give this alternative approach a try, I went back. Pretty much the same procedure took place. This time, Dr. Lo was more aggressive and the “cupping” took place not only on my back but on my arms, neck and chest as well. After the first visit, I did not show my husband my back, which was full of perfect circle bruises. After my second visit, however, I knew I wouldn’t be able to hide the results. I had a “hickey” the size of an orange on my neck; I had to wear a scarf to cover it; that or risk people thinking I had a large-lipped lover who didn’t care a whit about public scrutiny. My husband, upon looking at my purple body, just shook his head; he’s used to his wife’s ways.

After-effects of cupping

The result of this little experiment? It took two weeks for my back to look normal again, and I ended up filling the antibiotic prescription I had received from my “regular” doctor before I tried out this new approach. The jury was still out on how I felt about alternative medicine, specifically acupuncture. I have been told by many people that it really does work, but in this case it didn’t. It was my discomfort and frustration with these allergies that had me return to Dr-Mrs. Lo.

I have had one treatment so far that included the needles on the sides of my nose, in my forehead and at my hairline. Cupping was also included and for the last couple of days I’ve had to ensure the back of my neck is not exposed when I go out into public; trying to explain the bruising is something I don’t wish to discuss with total strangers. I have another appointment this Friday and I’ll once again go with optimism. The nasal drip hasn’t subsided as of yet but perhaps like other types of medicine and therapy, it takes time to cure (the irony is that the word, “cure” means it is a process, right?). At this point, with the failures of everything else I’ve tried, I am willing to give this method another chance.

No one can say that I’m stuck in my ways; I’m always open to new things. That’s why I make such a good anthropologist; I’m willing to see how others do things. There are things I won’t try though and the minute Dr. Lo brings out the leeches to bleed me more aggressively, I am out of the door!

To find out more about cupping, check out this article.

1 comment:

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

My wife had the nasal septal repair surgery done last year and it was quite gruesome. She said it helped a lot, but now she is back to using the flonase stuff to clear her sinuses and the neti pot. She was so bad that she could hardly breath through the night when she slept.
I can see her maybe trying the acupuncture but, I think she'd run screaming if she saw those cups.
Sorry about the allergies. It really sounds awful for those people who have them.
My wife also had the shot test and she was allergic to a lot of different things. Dust. Animals. Things that we have plenty of. The doctor urged her to take all the shots but she didn't want to spend that kind of money on this right now so nothing has really changed.