I absolutely love the health care system here in Korea, especially when watching the ongoing debacle in the US, with their so-called "affordable" health care program being forced upon citizens. I am so glad I don't live there. Anyhoo, rant over.
The point being: I pay $67/mo. for my health insurance here in Korea, and it covers acupuncture!
I've had knee pain on and off since 1996, when, as a runner, I kept running through the pain, instead of listening to my body and taking a break to allow healing. Of course, I had only been running a few years at that time, but had found my true love: RUNNING! Seriously, I cannot see myself existing in life without running. I'll be running when I'm 90. I'll be running toward the casket hehehe... shambling along perhaps, but without a cane or walker, for damn sure! Back then, I was obsessed with splits and fartleks and heart rate and mileage and time. I was working toward a marathon finish! I can still recall my first "runner's high"; achieved on the UTSA Health Science Center track in San Antonio, TX, during my (then) first run of 5 miles or more. I had just finished the uphill portion and was enjoying an easy downhill after the curve when I noticed--in surprise--that my heart was beating at a slow, regular pace, that I was breathing easily and without effort, and that I was running without effort! I had hit a stride and pace with such ease I hadn't even noticed the transition. I was gliding. I wasn't running fast by any means, maybe an 8- or 9-minute mile back then, but there was a sense of ease to it that is hard to describe, a feeling of "this feels good!". Effortless. And from then on, I was always chasing that "high" sense of ease; I always wanted my runs to be be that effortless, but found I had to hit the 5-mile mark before they became as such; before I felt a sense of exhilaration and "I can do this forever no problem!" Take note: at mile 10, that feeling ends, ha ha, and I'm back to the grind of huffin' and puffin' and fatigue. Soon after, I was running my first 10-miler. Then the knee pain begins. I'm around mile 8 or so. I ran through it, and when I hit 10 miles I was favoring my left leg to the point it was more of a skip or limp-type run than an actual run. But hey, I finished that 10 miler in good time, although I suffered what has become a lon- term injury in the process. I also recall getting out of bed the next day and promptly falling to the floor due to a knee that wouldn't support me. To the student health clinic I went, and was promptly misdiagnosed by an intern. But that's another story.
Since then, I've learned to heed the pain, and although I did finish a marathon years later, I finished in pain and took a lot of time off afterward. 2 weeks turned into a year...? Now I keep my runs under 10 miles, take walking breaks, and when the knee aches-- I stop (mumbling, cursing, and irritated, but I do stop).
So, back to the acupuncture story. Yes, I do have a point, even though I take the circumspect path I take to get there... My acupuncture visits are about $9 U.S. (9,700 Korean won). Dr. No isn't his name awesome! speaks excellent English and he recommends a course of 10 sessions to see if we can heal my knee. I also happen to be seeing him for my sprained ankle, injured in Busan two months ago, that is still affecting my mobility and giving me pain! He believes we can repair the damage to my knee ligaments without surgery, and wouldn't that be fantastic. Unfortunately for my body's self-healing ability, I've had in the back of my mind a lurking thought: somewhere in the future, I will have to get some kind of surgical repair done so that I can continue running. No, I will not stop running; I am a runner, and walking bores the crap out of me! I recall a lecture I heard by Wayne Dyer, referencing a study he had read: a sample group needed surgical knee replacement/repair because their activities and lifestyle had become impaired to the point some could barely walk. They all went into "surgery", which was "faked" without their knowledge. Although they underwent anesthesia and the whole process of surgery, they were never actually operated on. This has to be the best example of The Placebo Effect of which I've ever heard! All of them showed incredible improvements after the "surgery", playing sports and being more active than ever. (Later they were told told of the "surgery" and all were happy.) So I've been focusing on visualizing my healthy knee, and working on believing that the acupuncture treatments will repair my knee!
The sensation of the needles (rather, in my mind's eye, the fear of pain of the needles being inserted) caused some anxiety, which diminishes in less than oneminute, but the TENS unit created such an unusual feeling in my leg and overall body, that I had to really focus on my breathing and the sensation of my breath to alleviate the anxiety. Understand, the needles cause absolutely NO PAIN at all. As I mentioned, it's the anticipation of pain that creates anxiety. But the feeling of not being able to control my leg; of it moving of it's own accord, was rather ghastly and disturbing, but I breathed through it and am all the better for it.
As I write this on the morning following my acupuncture treatment, I notice my energy level is higher and that I feel really good. I've been suffering quite a bit of fatigue lately, and don't know whether to attribute it to stress, rock climbing, poor diet, or all of the above. But I notice after I have a treatment, I feel much better (this is my second treatment, though the first was for a separate issue). The Doc recommends 3 treatments during the first week, since my injury is severe and has been plaguing me on and off since oh jeez that's a long time! 1996, and a total course of 10 treatments. To me, this a happier and cheaper alternative to, say, multiple orthopedic surgeon visits, followed by arthroscopy, followed by surgical ligament repair or meniscus scraping, followed by months on crutches, physical rehab, and then no running for months on end. Then again, if I have to go through a western surgical approach that to fix my knee, I am willing! But in the meantime, I love the acupuncture treatments, am laughing that it costs almost nothing, and am in joy that it's a traditional, revered healing mode in Korea and easily accessible! Yay!
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...is in Korea loving Korean food and culture!