I can usually ignore memes or laugh them off and go about my day, but this one, put forth by the “Skeptical Meme Society” (or as I call them, “The Assholes Who Have Nothing Better To Do With Their Time Than Belittle What They Refuse To Understand Society”) made my blood boil. Bill and I were watching Michael Phelps on Monday night and noticed the purple spots on his shoulders – we immediately recognized he’d had cupping done, as it’s a treatment we’ve both had for shoulder and neck issues.
I started seeing an acupuncturist back in 2009 when I was undergoing IVF treatments. The hormonal manipulation was turning me into a monster, and my fertility doctors recommended acupuncture as an alternative therapy that could help me through the emotional rollercoaster that I was on; I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical but given the miserable person I had become, I was willing to try anything, and guess what? It worked. Not only did it help me get through all that, I noticed it helped me with other things, namely my crappy sinuses and the neck spasms that have misaligned the vertebrae in the right side of my neck. I recommended treatment to Bill, who’s got a bad shoulder after a season of filming football practices and games without a tripod, and it’s helped both of us immensely.
In addition to the cupping and acupuncture, I also have gua sha treatments to help with pain management. Gua sha is a procedure where a liniment is rubbed into the affected area and then scraped off with the back of a porcelain spoon. Much like cupping, it draws blood to the surface of the skin, and since a lot of pain is believed to come from impeded blood flow (in my case, from trapezius spasms), gua sha is considered effective for pain relief. The welts that come up disappear after a few days (mine last usually about three or four and then fade) and I’m under the impression that the more discolored you get from it, the more you need it.
Does it sound esoteric as hell? You bet. Does it help? Absolutely. The first 24 hours after treatment make me feel like Chuck Norris kicked my butt, but within 48, I have close to 100% pain relief and the stiffness that jacks up my neck is gone. I have no idea how this stuff works, or if it’s just a placebo effect, but even if that’s all it is, who cares? There is a metric crapton of stuff we don’t know about how the brain processes pain and about the mind-body connection, or the natural pain killers our bodies produce. If it helps me feel better without taking highly addictive prescription medications, how is that bad? I resent the absolute hell out of this meme and these attitudes. I am not a crackpot wasting money, and my coffee goes into me in the traditional way (although an IV pole of coffee would help on some days). If you haven’t tried something, you really have no right to knock those of us who have.
Yes, alternative medicine is expensive but that’s only because negative stereotypes like these keep insurance companies from covering them. I would think, given the opioid abuse epidemic in this country, that we could have a logical and thought provoking discussion about pain management and Chinese medicine without resorting to bullying and name calling. How many celebrities have to die from things like Fentanyl abuse before we start accepting that we don’t need dangerous chemicals to help us deal with pain? Didn’t we learn anything from the abject tragedies that were Michael Jackson and Prince’s deaths?? I took hydrocodone after the egg harvesting phase of the IVF treatments and you know what? It screwed up my breathing, made me feel stupid and didn’t help the pain. Two extra strength Tylenol did. Eventually I got to where I just put the prescription through the shredder and didn’t waste the money getting it filled, it did that little for me.
I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there who have far worse problems than me who need prescription medications – I’m sure my issues are wicked small potatoes compared to most people’s, even if I do have a low pain threshold. For those people, prescription drugs may be the only thing that keeps them alive, and they should have access to them without having to go through half a million hoops to obtain relief. I simply think that doctors should consider alternative therapies and Chinese medicine as possible treatment options instead of just blindly writing prescriptions for what are potentially deadly chemical compounds for every single ache and pain we have. Of course, Big Pharma has a vested interest in keeping us addicted, but that’s a whole other argument that I don’t feel like having. I just ask my readers to be open minded when it comes to treatment options for pain-after all, alternative therapies have been around for over 3000 years. That has to prove something.