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5.6.11

Adventures In Acupuncture III

This is part 3 of an on-going series of articles about the use of acupuncture in treating the effects of multiple sclerosis, especially blindness.  See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.  The standard Western medical approach gave no hope for recovery, and the use of life-long drugs (with distasteful side-effects) offered a ‘possible’ protection from further attacks.

It's on a small back street near Gaja Mada, an unassuming white building in the Dutch colonial style.  You enter the main doors into a large waiting room painted entirely white, with a large covered courtyard directly ahead.  To the right is the check-in counter.  You hand over your treatment card, pay Rp.40,000 (~$5) and wait your turn.

There are about 7 or 8 sin she who practice here.  Some are very popular.  Mine is not, since her bedside manner is, well, chilly at best.  I don't care.  I just want to see again.

It's a yayasan, or non-profit organization.  If you bring a letter from your Pa RT that says you are poor, you will be treated for free.  There are old and young, stroke patients on gurnies, people with various injuries getting pain relief, a diverse cross-section of the population.  Some arrive in expensive Mercedes, others by bajaj and motorcycle.  I've made friends with a couple of the regulars.

I'm called up and enter the long ward on the left side of the building.  It's lined with curtained cubicles and looks something like one of those old war movies in the hospital scene.  I sit at a wooden desk and the sin she, her name is Tjoe (Chew), asks a few questions.  "How are your eyes?" "Any problems?" "How about your feet?"  She hold up some objects and asks me what color they are.  If it's blue or yellow, no problem...greens and reds are a little more difficult.

Tjoe takes my pulse and blood pressure, then asks me to stick out my tongue.  Common practice to look for evidence of a stroke, but also has some information about my general health.  This is my fifth visit and she seems to be warming up slightly, which means she actually cracks a smile when I make a joke.

Next, I'm led to one of the curtained cubicles, where a basic wood-framed bed with a fresh, thin cotton sheet and a small pillow.  Tjoe comes in with a tray full of needles.  I try not to look at it, since I am no fan of needles under any circumstances.  Childhood trauma, I guess.  She swabs the back of my head first and pokes a needle into the dorsal nerve that runs up the back of the skull.  It's rather uncomfortable.

Then I lie down and Tjoe begins the ritual.  First, a needle on either side of the base of my skull.  Those aren't too bad, though the sensation is rather unnerving, pardon the pun.  Two more in the top of my head.  Two over each eye, two at the root of my nose.  Two about mid-way down my nose.  One at the corner of each eye.  One under each eye.  One in each hand, between the thumb and forefinger.  Sometimes there's a third between the right ring-finger and pinky...though not today.  The ones in my feet have moved.  They are now on the outside of my calves about an inch or so above the ankles.  Most of the needles don't bother me too much, but the ones in my face are not pleasant, especially the ones at the corners of my eyes.

The assistant comes in with a battery pack and starts wiring up the needles in my face and neck, and today she adds a wire to the one in my right hand.  She then begins to turn on the juice one at a time, beginning with the one on the right side of my neck.  I have to confirm that I feel each one come online.  The ones in my nose make the end of my nose tingle and the muscles in my head jump in rhythm with the alternating pulses.

I close my eyes and try to relax as best I can.  I can feel the pulsing all over my head, but if I let my mind wander, it becomes kind of a pleasant background.  If I concentrate on it, it can get rather uncomfortable.  It goes on for about 15 to 20 minutes.

This is followed by the most unpleasant part of the whole thing...swabbing the needle entry-points with alcohol.  There's a slight amount of bleeding, especially at the facial points.  It stops after a few seconds.  The assistant adds up the needles and asks for an additional Rp. 5,000, for more than 10.  At that point, I'm free.

So, what have I noticed?  Well, my stopped-up sinuses are wide open and my sense of smell is supercharged.    Don't know if I'm thankful or not for that, since Jakarta is a wealth of odors, not all of which are pleasant.  The tinnitus has gone down overall, though some days are worse than others.  The muscle spasms in my lower legs have nearly stopped.  I still get mild cases after a lot of walking, but sleeping at night is much easier, since the leg muscles aren't jumping all night.

A significant amount of sensation has returned to the middle three toes on both feet.  I had lost nearly all sensory input from those six toes.  I still had motor control, but with no feeling, I couldn't tell where my toes where without looking.  I could also drop a brick on them and only notice the pressure, but no pain unless I looked at them and had a pscho-somatic response.  Thought they are not fully restored, I can certainly attest that I feel them again.

As for my eyes, I am getting a lot more color response across my full field of view.  My peripheral vision is starting to get greens and reds, though certain hues register much better than others.  My central vision is regaining colors, as well, though quite a bit slower.  I also seem to have a more difficult time focusing on medium and distant objects.  There also seems to be quite a bit more 'fog' in my central vision, though the peripherals are starting to clear up.  Not dramatically, but certainly an improvement.

My sense of balance seems to come and go.  After some treatments, I feel like I could walk a tight-rope, but after others, not as good.  In all, though, it is an improvement over pre-treatment, when I was doing an old man shuffle to keep from toppling over.

The sin she tells me to be patient, that acupunture takes time, and the treatment must be tweaked and tuned over time.  I assure her that after two years of being blind with no hope from pill-popping medicine, a couple of months is nothing.  That I can see more colors is plenty to celebrate, by itself.

I addition to the acupuncture, I have continued my twice-a-month reflexology, which is kind of a mix between massage, acupressure and Greco-Roman wrestling.  It starts literally with the tip of my toes and finishes with the top of my head, and in the course of two hours, every nerve gets worked over.  When done, my whole body is jangling like a freshly rung bell.  It can be quite painful, since one of the purposes is to break ganglion cysts, otherwise known as bible cysts.  The masseuse uses his thumb knuckle to literally grind the little buggers until they pop, which has me climbing out of my skin most of the time.  No this is not some executive stress-relief session, this is serious therputic massage, and I do get a general benefit from it in every part of my body connected to nerves.

I have also continued my vitamin regimen.  The following in my daily pill-popping:

  • 2000 mg of vitamin C
  • Nature's Bounty Vizion 20/20 x 1
  • Royal Jelly 500 mg x 1
  • Coral Calcium 174 mg (w/D-3)  x 1
  • Cinnamon 1000 mg x 1
  • Milk Thistle 175 mg x 1
  • Vitamin E 400 IU x 1
To this, I will add Goji berry extract, which has a long reputation in Chinese medicine as being beneficial for eyes and nerves, as well as Gingko Biloba, which also has benefits for nerves and brain.

In conclusion, after 5 sessions, I am seeing some benefits, with a few (like sensation in my toes) being rather remarkable.  I have noticed some benefit to hearing, smell and balance, and muscle spasms are slowing down a good bit.  My vision is a bit brighter and more colorful, which is a minor miracle.  We shall see what the long-term benefits are.

In my research, the consensus seems to be that 10 sessions is the minimum to really begin seeing major improvements, so I'm half-way there now.  I have seen enough already to be encouraged and I will continue, at least for the foreseeable future.  My research has also shown, and others have told me, that acupuncture is best when combined with other modalities.  So, I am careful to keep MSG out of my diet, maintain a vitamin and mineral regimen, use reflexology, and soon I will be adding two common herbal supplements that are known for their benefits to eyes and nerves..  i will, of course, continue to report here weekly on any and all effects, good, bad or indifferent, so that my experience can be useful to others who may need it, since western medicine only offers endless pills and little hope for cures in the case of multiple sclerosis.

My wife has also taken some photos from the treatments, so if I can ever get her to download them onto my computer, then I'll post those in future, as well.

If anyone has specific questions, please feel free to drop a note to the address at the top of the page.  I'll be happy to share the resources I've collected and point you in the direction of folks who can help you find more.

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