Mrs B Senior has been in town for an extended visit. Complaining of a very painful shoulder, she's been recommended to give accupuncture a try. After several weeks' treatment, what's the verdict?
Mum's got in to a regular routine now, heading along to the doctor's every afternoon. Each treatment lasts for between 30 minutes and two hours, though it's never a continuous treatment. Instead the doctor starts with a check on what's hurting, puts some needles in her head (click photo for a bigger image)
then sends her out to sit for a while. The needles don't hurt as they go in, but as the doctor jiggles them she says she feels something like an electric shock, and that can be very painful. There's quite a social atmosphere in the waiting room, as pretty much the same people are there for treatment at the same time every day. Several of them have become unpaid translators, helping the doctor communicate with Mum!
Chinese people are not surprised to hear about the problem -- in fact, Mr B's Mandarin teacher said knowingly "Ah, 50-year shoulder" when she heard about these acupuncture sessions. The doctor says that some problem -- usually a minor injury -- causes the person to start limiting the movement of their shoulder. As time goes by, the muscles in the shoulder start sticking together, further imobilising the shoulder and upper arm, and making it more painful. If left untreated, gradually the problem extends throughout the arm.
Back at the doctors, the second part of the treatment gets underway. The needles are taken out from the head, and a different longer set of needles are used in the limbs and body. This part can often seem miraculous. The doctor will find a movement that hurts mum, then insert a needle and ask her to try the movement again. Hey presto, no pain any more! This doctor says his speciality is in helping remove people's pain. There is also extended and vigorous massage, aimed at pulling apart those stuck-together muscles and getting everything moving. The doctor has very strong fingers, as the bruises show.
So, what's the final verdict ? Generally, after the treatment and for the next day, there is no pain in the shoulder, and it can be moved freely. However when we went away from Hong Kong for a five-day break, the problem came back with a vengeance. The doctor would prefer to give less frequent treatments but over a longer time, instead of this intensive treatment during Mum's short stay. The final proof will be in hearing how Mum gets on after she returns to the UK.
However, there is no doubt that the doctor is both skilled and hard-working. We have several friends who have been very happy with the results of their treatment, and younger patients have been fully repaired after just five sessions. So, if there is a persistent pain that you can't get rid of, and if you're not squeamish about needles, it's definitely worth a try.