Wednesday, December 20, 2017

challenging my own skepticism

Tomorrow morning, for the first time ever, I'll be visiting a haneuiweon (pronounce it "hah knee one," with the accent on the "hah"—same rhythm as "honeybun"), i.e., a Chinese-medicine clinic. For the past three or so weeks, I've had a steadily worsening ache that started in the left side of my neck but is now radiating outward and down my left arm, with a good deal of pain in my left deltoid. At first, when the pain was localized to my neck, I tried sleeping on my left side (I usually sleep on my back or on my right side) with a stack of pillows so as to stretch my neck vertebrae and un-pinch what I assumed was a pinched nerve. That didn't do anything. Alas, I didn't think much of the problem at the outset: I've gotten cricks in my neck before, and the pain usually fades after a few days. This time, though, things have only gotten worse, and I'm at a point where words like fibromyalgia are floating around in my brain. I'm due to see my regular doc in the next week or so, but in the meantime, I thought I might as well try the local witch doctor. There's little scientific reason to think that Eastern medicine is effective, but there's enough anecdotal evidence, in the form of testimony from people I know, that I've thought to myself, "Hell—couldn't hurt."

I expect I'll get some sort of acupuncture/acupressure treatment, and hey—if I come out of the clinic feeling better than I've felt for the past few weeks, I'll consider lowering my guard a bit when it comes to Chinese-style medicine. If the witch doctor can unblock my ki flow and restore proper balance in my body, then Bob's your uncle, as my Kiwi buddy might say.

To be honest, I'm not expecting any results. What I'd really like is a garbage bag full of ibuprofen tablets and maybe some corticosteroids (on the assumption that there may be some inflammation happening)—at least something to help me sleep peacefully again. Trying to sleep while in pain sucks.

Tomorrow, I'll give you a report on how it goes.


Charles said...

"Eastern medicine" casts a rather wide net. I've had good experience with some aspects of traditional medicine in Korea, whereas there are other aspects that I have a hard time taking seriously.

At any rate, I hope you start feeling better soon.

Kevin Kim said...


I may have told this story before, but in the 90s, I came down with something awful while I was teaching at my first-ever hagweon. I was so sick that my students wondered whether I was drunk or something. When I went back across the street to my yeogwan after barely making it through my morning classes, I heard a knock on my door. A student of mine had gone to a pharmacy and described my symptoms to the druggist, who gave the student a bottle of some kind of liquid and a few packets of pills and herbs. I thanked the student, downed the bottle, swallowed a packet of pills and herbs... and was almost completely better within an hour or two. The recovery was incredible. So at the time, I may have become something of a believer—at least to the extent that herbal medicine seemed to have some effect. As for ki manipulation, cupping, acupuncture, and all the aspects of Eastern medicine that deal with subtle forces—I'm very much a scientific skeptic. But that may change tomorrow if I walk out of the clinic pain-free. We'll see.

Thanks for the well-wishes.

John from Daejeon said...

You might need to track down a chiropractor to realign your back. I know I was very surprised when what I thought was a serious leg issue ended up really being a severe back issue instead.

And like with every doctor, you might want to do a thorough search to find a good one.

Kevin Kim said...


Thanks. Luckily, I know a good chiro. A friend of mine has been going to him for years; I visited the guy once myself, just for a generic working-over, and while I didn't come away feeling like an utterly changed man, I could tell the guy knew his stuff when it came to the professional cracking of joints, etc.