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My Amazing Experience with Acupuncture in South Korea

I had always wondered if acupuncture worked. A couple of years ago I found out what it’s all about, firsthand. Here’s the story.

I was living and teaching in small town South Korea-Seosan, South Korea-to be exact, and I had, at the time, lived there almost a year.

I walked most everywhere I went-to the school where I taught, out to eat…shopping. If I was going somewhere, most likely I was on foot.

My feet were constantly sore from all the walking and the many hours each day I spent standing in the classroom. Then, soreness became outright pain. I developed a small knot on the outer side of my right foot just blow the angle bone. The pain was almost unbearable and walking became a most unpleasant chore. The ailment got worse by the day.

Grounding myself for rest and recovery was not an option. In Korean culture you make it to work no matter what. To do otherwise would mean “losing face” and I had never missed a day of work, been a single minute late to teach a class or even thought about calling in sick, regardless of how bad I felt.

Something had to give; my pain was becoming excruciating. The thought was born to try the Eastern route instead of seeking out a conventional doctor. After all, I was in Asia. I decided to give it a shot.

Virtually no one in Seosan speaks English, but luckily I had a cool Korean friend who went by the name “Bluebird” who I could rely on for help in dealing with everyday affairs in this faraway land. So, I told Bluebird of my troubles and she said “problem no.” It was a date; she would take me to the best Chinese doctor in town.

The following Saturday came and Bluebird had an appointment set for mid-afternoon. We met at her boutique and she had some traditional Korean food delivered for lunch. It was delicious. We headed downtown-on foot, but of course.

Upon entering the doctor’s office, I took pause and looked around the small waiting room as Bluebird approached the reception desk and checked us in. The small room, in turn, looked back at me. I was used to the stares. The room was dimly lit and every square inch possible was lined with comfortable seating. I noticed much of this seating had electronically-controlled massaging features. We sat in the last two positions available.

Soon, a young girl appeared from the only door leading into the small individual patient rooms. She had super-model features as so many Korean women do. She smiled and led me into this room where, once again, I took pause and soaked up the surroundings. I noticed right away there was modern medical equipment such as electronic devices and whatnot that were definitely not derived from ancient methods. Ummm, I thought-a blend of Western as well as Eastern technologies. I didn’t have much time to ponder this.

The doctor entered the room. He spoke limited English (to my great surprise) and had a kind and wise demeanor. I felt comfortable as I used a combination of sign language and “Tarzan English” making my point as clear as possible that my right lower ankle was the culprit-the reason I was there. Suddenly, as if from nowhere-out came the acupuncture needles.

If my memory serves me well, the first needle went in my forehead just above my one of my eyes. These tiny pointed needles were painless as they entered my skin and the doctor stabbed me with the confidence of tightrope walker balancing over double safety nets. This was by no means his first rodeo….or even close.

Next, a combination of things happened. More needles were placed in my body and a few were even carefully positioned near my ailing ankle. The doctor left the room. Another super-model-looking assistant came in and the next thing I knew I had a suction device on my ankle that was putting out a small amount of electrical current. This procedure took maybe a half-hour with the assistant checking in often to make sure the device was in place and I was okay.

The visit ended with a second entry into the room by the doctor and a few more needles and more examining. He told me he needed to see me again in three days. I paid for my visit. It cost me 12,000 Korean won (about $12.00 at the time).

Bluebird and I left the office. I was impressed with what had taken place and was eager to see if relief was on the horizon. We went and had beers.

Three days passed and it came time for my mid-afternoon appointment that had been scheduled during a long lunch break after my morning classes. This time I was alone. I had some downtown landmarks etched in my mind so I could find the place. I did so staying within my normal margins of error. I was received well and took my seat with the other waiting patients-this time with a slight air of confidence.

Super-model one showed me into another small patient room. Super-model two greeted me with more suction cup electrical currents. The doctor entered the room with a confident, warm smile and, of course, more needles. But this time I was to be led into a secondary room-the doctor’s personal examination and procedure room. What happened next I never would have imagined.

There I was in the doctor’s main office, on my back, my foot in his hands. The next thing I knew he actually inserted a different kind of needle directly into the knot on my ankle. I felt no pain but was surprised at the nature of this procedure. He informed me all would be well and I would experience a little redness and some itching but that the issue was all taken care of. I thanked him and his staff and paid an additional 12,000 won.

I made my way back to my school in plenty of time for my afternoon classes.

I experienced a little redness and some itching. The knot in my ankle disappeared in short order. I was completely healed-no more pain.

I would strongly suspect that I would have had an altogether different experience on every level had I sought out a western-style podiatrist. In any case, the treatment worked and opened my eyes to the ancient practice of acupuncture.