“What is a soul? It’s like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room.”
Dashing out of my work towards Burrard street, I hop on the 22 Knight/MacDonald bus which takes me across town, over the Granville bridge with its glorious view of English Bay, winding through Kitsilano and up into Kerrisdale, to StudioHealth clinic where Liz greets me warmly and invites me in to my first acupuncture treatment.
If you didn’t already know, acupuncture is a collection of procedures involving penetration of the skin with needles to stimulate certain points on the body. In its classical form it is a characteristic component of Traditional Chinese medicine. The idea being that stimulating specific acupuncture points corrects imbalances in the flow of Qi – or vital energy – through channels known as meridians.
Some speculate that the introduction of acupuncture arose after ancient Chinese doctors observed that some soldiers wounded in battle by arrows were cured of chronic afflictions. Others suggest it has its origins in bloodletting. As I picture Liz shooting me with tiny arrows from across the room or slitting my wrists and leaving me to bleed out in the treatment room, I’m not entirely surprised when she mentions that my pulse is a bit rapid. It might be time to confess to my fear of needles.
With my confession out of the way Liz proceeds to take an incredibly detailed medical history. Aside from questions about any specific complaints, the stress in my life and the history of disease in my family, the questions center on the “seven inquiries”, namely: chills and fever, perspiration, appetite, thirst, defecation and urination, pain and sleep. A quick inspection of my tongue reveals me to be in good health, albeit with some “hot points”; which unfortunately is not a compliment but rather suggests inflammation or infection of the organ network.
Medical history complete it is now time for treatment. We decide to concentrate on releasing my tense neck and shoulders and otherwise just tone the rest of me. I undress and lay face down on the massage table, draped in a sheet, and Liz begins Tui Na, acupressure massage, to stimulate the meridians and prepare for the needles.
After a few minutes of delightful massage Liz warns me that she is about to put the first needle in – I barely feel it. In fact, with the exception of a few which hit tender nerves causing temporary discomfort, I barely feel any of the needles that follow. What I do feel is an immediate and measurable endorphin rush. As the needles go into my body it is as though someone has built tiny transformers up and down my spine and limbs and turned on the power. My body is relaxed yet humming with electricity.
The needles stay in for 10 minutes or so, during which time she tweaks them, causing me to feel curiously itchy but I don’t dare move. Once the needles are removed, I flip over and needles are placed along the front of my body, in my arms, legs, face and on the top of my head. Dimming the lights and placing the infrared heat lamp over my abdomen, Liz informs me I have 10 minutes or so to relax in the warm, darkened room. What glorious bliss is this!
Walking out into the cool night air afterwards I feel very relaxed. I can’t tell for certain wether the treatment did anything for my neck and shoulders that massage wouldn’t, but I am pleased by the whole experience and open to the possibility of returning for a second treatment.