2009-05-28 / News

A trip into the land of alternative therapies

Flotsam and Jetsam
By Donna Drago

By the time a fad or a trend gets to be "so last year," on someone else's list, is about when I usually think about it for the very first time. As an example, I don't have an iPod, nor have I ever downloaded a song to my computer— why bother? I own a radio. I just tried a GPS device for the first time about a month ago when I rented a car that was already equipped with one.

In the kitchen I hate new gadgets and items that are only used for one purpose—like popcorn makers, waffle irons, and the like. I will use a toaster until it completely dies—even if it only toasts on one side of the bread for several years. I don't have a Facebook page, nor have I ever Twittered. So for me to go out on a limb and try something I have never done or used before is often a monumental event.

My new thing is acupuncture.

After suffering with chronic shoulder pain for the better part of 20 years, I finally decided to see if there was something I could do about it. Of course I'd tried physical therapy, cortisone shots and various prescription drugs, but nothing took away the pain for good. It's not bad enough to warrant surgery—just a constant dull ache that has been my companion forever.

Over the course of several years, I have heard many friends and acquaintances talk about their successes with the ancient Chinese medicine. Some have gone for pain management, some for allergies, others for stress reduction. In most cases people have given the treatment a big thumbs up. For me, with only a few treatments under my belt, the jury is still out on whether I get the results I am hoping for, but so far, the experience has been interesting.

My doctor of acupuncture is very kind and has a soothing voice. She looks at my tongue, inquires about my bowel habits and other bodily concerns and then proceeds to insert great numbers of needles in various parts of my anatomy. Since the goal is to reduce or eliminate shoulder pain, she spends the most time in that area. On one visit she put a ball of incense on the end of a needle and lit it on fire. I tried explaining this to my husband, who rejects change even more than I do, and he just shook his head and muttered something about "voodoo" under his breath. On another occasion, my doctor of acupuncture, inserted the needles and then hooked some of them up to a battery, which sent electrical impulses through the needles and into my muscles. I can't explain why, but I got a case of the giggles after that treatment.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but every treatment brings a whole new notion of what can be done to fix a wonky shoulder.

I am optimistic that I will get some relief from my acupuncture treatments, but I have also been looking ahead thinking about what my next move is if there is no cure. In the 2009 edition of the Alternative Health Guide for New England, there are hundreds of practitioners— each offering a method for curing or healing my problems. What the heck, I'm in the mode to try new things.

Bee venom therapy is intriguing. This is where a traveling bee venom therapist comes to your house and places live bees on your skin that sting you. The bee venom guy says that the therapy can offer signifi cant relief from arthritis, Lyme disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, cancerous tumors and a host of other ailments. On the website, there's even a video of the little honeybees at work. Under the category "Ghosts Removed" a practitioner offers his services: "Ghosts and negative energies removed from your home/aura/body." Perhaps my shoulder pain is actually a ghost that I have been schlepping around with me all these years. No one's given me a better diagnosis, so maybe it's worth a shot.

There's also iridology, which studies the iris of the eye to "detect the condition of the body and its organs, genetic strengths and weaknesses." The companion to iridology is sclerology, which studies the whites of the eyes to look for "congestions." The practitioner suggests that knowing what's going on inside the eyes offers great insight into one's health.

Laughter therapy sounds like a great plan if all else fails. The "joyologist," who is also known as the laughter leader offers a program of laughter and stress reduction that could be useful should I need to deal with the fact that my shoulder pain will never go away.

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