Sunday, December 29, 2013
Getting the Point
We made it back from Maui (18 hours door-to-door), but the 9 hour flight back from Honolulu to Narita was absolute agony. Although I did not break anything and had no internal injuries, I was whiplashed by the wave, and my neck and upper back are still swollen and it hurts just to sit down. I am not sleeping well (3-4 hours/night max) since every time I toss or turn the pain wakes me up.
I did not go for TCM in Maui since I don't know anyone there (you will understand why by the end of this post), but luckily I was able to get in to see Edward Sensei at his clinic the day after we landed back in Japan. His clinic was very busy, but he kindly made time for me since I was injured.
Those of you who know me know I am a huge advocate of TCM in general, and of acupuncture and moxibustion in particular. It is absolute magic for joint/ligament/tendon/muscle pains and injuries, works well for headaches, stress, depression and a wide range of other disorders. Even if nothing is "wrong" I recommend a monthly "tune-up" to ensure optimal health and balance is maintained.
There are many people who turn their noses up to TCM, calling it "voodoo" or "black magic" and generally of the mind that it doesn't work unless you believe in it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The more research is done, the more we come to understand that the holistic view of TCM and preventative medicine is scientifically valid and in many cases far more effective than traditional Western medical treatments. In a potential life-or-death situation such as I had on Maui, I defer to a Western trauma center, where the Emergency Room staff are specially trained to keep me from dying. However, keeping me from dying is not the same as keeping me healthy, and the difference is worth thinking about.
Here is my advice on how to evaluate the quality of TCM treatment:
Good treatment should be painless. If I feel the needles or get too hot from the moxa, it is a sure sign of an amateur (and that I should find another clinic immediately). I have had acupuncture treatment in the past and felt the needles hit my spine. Not good.
Good treatment is relaxing. Music is soft and instrumental, and care is taken to ensure I am comfortable (not too hot or cold). Likewise, I should not experience nausea or dizziness from the treatment. I have received treatment from some clinics (that I will never return to) that made me vomit on the way out.
New/clean needles each time please. Hepatitis (or the stress of worrying about it) should not be part of the treatment. Good doctors have a very clean and well organized clinic.
I expect to be treated as a WHOLE PERSON, not simply at/around the area where I have symptoms. Unlike western medicine, treatments need not be exactly on the spot of the pain or injury. Sometimes the best way to treat a site is to focus on the opposite side, for example.
Good treatment does not just focus on the current problems, but also seeks to strengthen weak areas so that future issues can be better avoided and mealth can be maintained. A good doctor will discover areas of concern I didn't mention because they are not bad enough for me to notice them...yet.
A good TCM doctor is like a good detective; not just addressing the symptoms, but always questioning to understand and treat the root causes of disorder and disease. Every patient is different and every treatment situation is unique.
A good TCM doctor involves me in the process and helps me understand what is going on with my body and how his/her treatment plan will address it. It is an interactive experience rather than a one-way dialog or lecture.
Good practitioners do not try to mystify patients with pseudo-spiritual or religious overlays. Objectives of the treatment are clear and methodologies are open to be shared and explained.
I have learned a great deal about TCM from being treated. Questions should be welcomed.
Unlike Western hospitals, TCM clinics are places of HEALING. Therefore, they and their doctors and staff should radiate a tangible positive energy. The doctor and staff should exhibit a quiet, relaxed confidence and this is an important and often overlooked part of the treatment.
A good doctor works hard to develop a trust relationship with patients. I do not trust this important treatment to very many people, and knowing/trusting my TCM doctor is paramount.
Be willing to pay more or travel as far as needed to visit the doctor who is right for you. Your health is worth it. Accept no compromise or substitute.
A treatment generally takes an hour or two and can involve any combination of acupuncture, moxibustion and massage, but that depends on what is being done. A serious session (when I am injured) might be well over 2 hours. The best thing to do afterward is immediately go home and rest/sleep as long as possible. It has been my experience that a good session from a skilled doctor is one of the very best remedies for life's bumps and scrapes, and I strongly suggest a monthly visit whether you are injured or not. It is useful for your TCM doctor to "benchmark" your baseline health, which can help him/her to identify when things get out of alignment and need to be adjusted/corrected.
A lot of our disease and discomfort is caused by stress and tension, and a visit for TCM can help relieve these. I prefer TCM to chiropractic, since TCM looks carefully at the underlying factors which affect posture and balance. Chiropractic tends to do an adjustment/alignment, but underlying tension and stress will quickly pull the spine back into the wrong shape if not addressed, resulting in the need for another chiropractic adjustment and so on in an endless loop.
After my experience on Maui, I couldn't get back to Japan fast enough, and I booked an appointment with him as soon as possible. I have had a lot of treatments from a lot of TCM doctors in my time, and far and away the best I have met so far is Edward Obaidey at Edward Obaidey Acupuncture Clinic in Sangenjaya. It is with himself, his staff and his clinic in mind that I wrote the above checklist.
If you have not had TCM treatment before, I hope this post will help you take the first steps with an open mind. If you are a veteran like me, make sure your body is in the right hands by referring to the above and considering your current TCM practitioner. Better still, go see Edward Sensei. You (and your body) will be very glad you did.