Friday, November 2, 2012

Chinese Medicine ~ First Impressions

Before I begin explaining my first experience with Chinese Medicine let me just say that I never, ever even wanted to think about doing anything medical related here. I am the one who prays that nothing serious happens between our trips to the US and diligently schedules all of our appointments when we are home there. However, when you live elsewhere things begin to change. Hubby has used a westernized healthcare system here quite a bit now and has been perfectly happy with the results. 
I ask, as you read this, to be open minded. 
Think of The Karate Kid.

During my first pregnancy FOURTEEN years ago I began to have trouble with my sciatic nerve on my right side. I have pretty much lived with it, except for around four years ago I went to a doctor to see if there was anything to be done. Basically, after an MRI, he told me to lose weight, exercise or have back surgery. I did find that exercising regularly seemed to keep things at bay, unless I was sitting for more than an hour. Fast forward to two weeks ago. I was exercising and felt something, on my left side lower back, not feel right. I began treating it as a pulled muscle because it did not feel like my pinched nerve on the right. After ten days it was not getting better and a massage actually made it worse.

I have this friend who lives here permanently. She is an amazing woman who I trust whole heartedly. She is completely fluent in Chinese and suggested I make an appointment with her Chinese medicine doctor. I am totally cool with acupuncture and the thought of having a pain free back was tempting. So I went last Wednesday.

It was a brisk fall day and the office was on the complete other side of Beijing in a district called Haidian. I took the subway, with three transfers, and made it there easily in a little over an hour. Thank goodness it was mid day and the subway was only packed instead of crammed. I was reading this amazing book so I didn't mind. 

In order to go to a chinese doctor you must either speak chinese or have a friend who does. My great friend assured me she would be by her phone all afternoon to do my translating. I had emailed her all of my symptoms and questions in advance so she was prepared. I was told I would be met at the subway exit and taken to the office. Sure enough, a Chinese woman greeted my with broken English and told me we had a twelve minute walk to the office. My back was not in horrible pain, but I did feel pressure with each step. I will admit I was nervous, but I am nervous before any doctor appointment. I think I nervously giggled just to break the silence. She guided me, putting her hand on my elbow, as we maneuvered our way across busy streets. The area that the office is in is very nice and totally different from where we live. No Russian words in sight. 
Suzhoujie Subway Stop Exit A
Only three transfers from mine
My appointment was at 2:00 but it quickly passed that time. Dr. Yao, who escorted me from the subway, told me that Dr. Hu was stuck in traffic on his way back from the University where he lectures at. I read my book some more. Another woman came in and we chatted. I soon found out that we go to the same church, although she is in the congregation we just split from and moved in after. Small world in Beijing!

At about 2:45 Dr. Hu came in. He is a cute chinese man that I felt comfortable with right away. He put on a white doctor coat and sat me down at a table. He rested my elbow onto the table with my hand in the air. He flicked the nail on the middle finger. He did this to both hands. He showed me the difference in how my hands reacted, very different indeed. My right hand remained limp and relaxed while my left hand curled up in response. Dr. Yao was taking notes as Dr. Hu spoke in Chinese. We then called my friend and she spoke a long time telling them what all of my issues were. We hung up and I was led to one of the beds, although I sat in a chair with Dr. Hu behind me. He started rubbing my scalp and neck area, similar to a massage. Do you know when, in a massage, they come across nodule like bumps that they work out? Well, he was finding those both on my head, on my neck and down my back. It was so interesting because on my left forearm he found three nodules, but on my right there were none. I started to think that these little bumps are definitely the result of something because they are not consistent on both sides of my body. He also found one on the front of my shoulder on the right side, but not on the left. I was intrigued.

We then went back to the table area to call my friend. He spoke to her for a long time and she listened. She then told me what he had to say. He says that two of my discs are so close together that they are pinching nerves. Both of my back issues are a result of this, and related to each other. He also said that I have neck issues also and would like me to get an MRI, which they will arrange with the hospital and take me to. He told my friend that he would like to see me twice a week for three weeks because he will be able to create space between those discs and it will solve my back problems. Okay!

We hung up the phone and headed to the same bed area with the chair. My friend had told me to wear sweats because he would be maneuvering me around oddly. I only had capri length yoga pants, which comes up later. While standing up, sitting down and laying down he did a series of treatments. All I can really say about it is that sometimes my legs were crunched up and he was always pressing into sections of my back. While he did that he would make a breathing sound and funny face and move those sections. I imagined it was similar to what a chiropractor does, although I have never been to one. I am sure that chiropractors don't make the sounds or face, as that is what made it Chinese...he was using his chi to fix my chi. It didn't hurt at all. As a matter of fact I was wondering if it would do anything at all. I was told to lay down for 20-30 minutes and rest.
The office was nice, but cold, with traditional chinese architecture
While I lay there I was cold. I knew I needed to dress warmer next time. But what long pants was I going to wear that were sweat like? These are the things going through my mind as the Chinese lady behind the curtain next to me was snoring so loud I was beginning to giggle. I was worried they would think it was me. I was also beginning to be concerned about the time. Since it was Wednesday the kids would be home early, like at 3:30. It was already past 4:00 and I still had quite a ways to travel home on the subway. I didn't know if they would come and get me or if I decided when enough rest was so I hopped off the table and peaked out of my curtain. I was scolded for only wearing socks. Dr. Yao is very protective of the patients and even though she is speaking Chinese I could tell when she was reprimanding me. I was not put off by this, as she was just being concerned. I quickly put on my shoes and proceeded to the desk. We called my friend one more time where we passed the phone back and forth multiple times. 
My instructions are:
  • Dress warmer (I got in trouble for not wearing long pants)
  • My purse is way too heavy (she scolded me for this too)
  • Limit walking (there goes my plan to lose 10 lbs by Hawaii)
  • No exercise
  • Limit sitting, lay down as much as possible
  • No stomach sleeping for the rest of my life ( this is so hard for me, but apparently it is horrible for your lower back)
  • No massages for now, they are making it worse
I agreed to all of these and they told me I would probably be in pain for the next 24 hours. I wondered why. I made my next appointment, paid 330 RMB (about $50 USD) and was on my way back to the subway. It was a lot worse getting home as it was now crammed and there is always a lot of pushing and shoving to get in and out. I began to feel my back becoming sore and by the time I got home at 6:15 I could not even stand anymore. The pain was a dull aching, not sharp like a pinched nerve. I was glad they had prepared me for this.

Sleeping on my back just plain ticked me off. I love sleeping and I love sleeping on my stomach! It is how I relax, feel cozy and comfy...I told myself it would get easier every night. It really hasn't yet. But when I woke up the very next morning I had no pain in my back whatsoever, first time in thirteen days! It dawned on me the process of what was happening. His treatments were moving things to create space between my discs, hence the dull aching. With each time he does this it will, hopefully, become more permanent. 

As I have done too much around the apartment, almost every single thing I do requires bending as all of our storage is knee height, I have started to feel pain again from the nerve. I also know that after my next treatment I will feel discomfort that night.

Overall there was nothing freaky that occurred during this first appointment. I didn't have to drink snake juice or eat herb leaves or even have hot fire cups on my back. It felt like they were actually interested in fixing the problem, rather than just treating the symptoms, which I am all for! It also is great that it is super first impression is a pretty good one.


Carrie said...

I'm proud of you for trying something different!! Did you go to Katie's doctor? I wonder if she is going to a different one now - I went to the one she saw who was over at Sihui East. I remember when the doctor did the funny face and sounds thing when he moved the chi around... pretty interesting stuff! I hope that they can make a permanent change for you!! And you should try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees - ever since I was pregnant with Noah I've found that this position makes my back feel better when I wake up in the morning. It totally helps keep my spine and hips straight. GOOD LUCK!! :)

Carissa said...

I want to go to a Chinese doctor. When I go to the doctor here, they sit on the other side of the room, ask questions, and then write a prescription. I'd love a doctor who was hands on and actually wanted to listen to my body. I hope the treatments work and you get feeling better soon.