05 July, 2010

I got acupuncture - *facepalm*

About 2-3 years ago, I woke up with a very sore neck. It was agonising when I tried to turn my neck to look to the side.


Nevertheless, I just carried on with my day, assuming it would eventually go away. Later in the day, I was in the local shopping centre with my girlfriend (now my fiance, w00t!) and the pain was still most certainly there. I needed to do something - fast - so I asked an employee if there were any medical or massage services in the shopping centre.

The only option was a Chinese alternative medicine shop.

Uh oh!

Against my better judgment (I was desperate at this stage) I approached the counter and asked if they do massages, as that was all I wanted. The young Chinese man asked me to explain the problem, which I did, briefly, and he then proceeded to tell me that I needed the 'full treatment' consisting of three parts - skin suction, acupuncture and massage. Acupuncture! Needless to say I declined his advice and explained that all I wanted was a massage.

He accepted my request and took me into the back room where I sat on a bed for a few minutes. Then the 'doctor' came in with the same guy from the counter and they spoke to each other in Chinese for a few minutes. Then, the counter guy told me that the doctor insisted I get the full treatment as it was necessary to treat my specific neck problem. I was very impressed by this diagnosis and treatment decision based purely on the information I had initially told the counter guy - that I woke up with a sore neck!

I actually felt under pressure (you don't disagree with a doctor, now do you?), and when the counter guy offered me a discounted price, against all my principles, I just backed down and agreed to it. Plus, I was somewhat curious to experience acupuncture, despite being skeptical of it. I took off my top and lay on my front, and the doctor placed two plastic objects on my back, one on each shoulder blade, that tightened my skin through a vacuum mechanism (called 'cupping' apparently). This lasted for about 20 minutes.

Next, he stuck needles in my back and neck. About 7 or 8 in total. If he was putting them in precise places, he must have been very good at it, because he put them all in in the space of about 10 seconds and then was gone - for 30 minutes. I lay there on my front and tried to keep still. After about 10 minutes I had to shift slightly as my position wasn't very comfortable. In the process of moving, my neck and back hurt quite a lot. I could feel the needles sticking in and, well, they hurt. I don't know why but I thought acupuncture wouldn't hurt much. Needless (needles!) to say, I wasn't feeling much better at this stage.

The final part of the treatment was a 10 minute neck massage, which is what I actually wanted in the first place. It was pretty poor compared to what you would expect from a professional. My session finished with me feeling a bit underwhelmed.

I got up and was leaving when the counter guy insisted that I buy some 'herbal plasters' to wear on my shoulders. I just wanted to get out of there so I said OK and, conveniently enough, this brought the price back to the original total (before my discount). For the record, it was about €70. Yeah, a rip off. I could have got a 60 minute full body massage for that price.

But the quackery didn't end there. As I was paying, the counter guy recommended that I book my next session now, as I would definitely need a series of sessions to deal with my problem properly - he didn't mention this at the start of course. At this stage, I was getting pissed off with the hard sell, and I just said no and left.

Well, did it work?

I honestly felt no difference straight after. My neck still hurt. Then again, I don't know the time-frame in which acupuncture is supposed to work. A few days later, my neck felt fine. Maybe it worked, or maybe it didn't. Personally, I attribute my recovery to the memory foam pillow I bought shortly after my quackery session - or to the fact that, well, it just went away, like pains often do.

Looking back, I feel scammed. The counter guy was clearly just a good salesman, and I can see why people get drawn in (including me!). The fact that he knew that I needed the 'full treatment' (within seconds of my telling him that my neck was sore) is just ridiculous. Then, when I had explained that I just wanted a massage, he waited until I was in the back room before trying to sell me the 'full treatment' again - this time in front of the doctor, who hadn't examined me at all but amazingly also knew that I needed the works. Then he pushed the add-on impulse sale at the end, and even went for the continuation sale. Luckily, I didn't fall for the latter, but I can see why others might if they truly believe that their treatment won't work unless they book another few sessions.

All in all, I actually don't regret it, because it was a valuable (yet expensive!) lesson to never go against my instincts again - at least not where pseudoscience is involved.


BeamStalk said...

Rhiggs, I am rather surprised. I thought you would know better than that. The only therapy you got was the massage, the cupping and acupuncture are bullshit. I have been scammed before and will be scammed again some day. We live and we learn.

rhiggs said...

Yeah I know. In my defence:

- it was a few years ago when I wasn't as avid a reader of skeptical topics

- it's hard to express the pressure I was put under by the two of them

- my neck was freakin sore!

Whateverman said...

Is this the first time I've heard of the engagement? If so, congrats :)

rhiggs said...

Yep, thanks Wem

rhiggs said...

Strange. I usually get 1-2 spam messages from accounts with Chinese symbols on each post, but so far on this one I've had to delete about 7-8.


rhiggs said...

And another...!

FrodoSaves said...


I thought 'cupping' was what happened when you went to the tailor?

Johna Mccaa said...

Be patient, Rhiggs! The effect of acupuncture is not as immediate like other therapies or treatments. It may take a couple of sessions before you see and feel its results. You should've continued a couple of sessions more. Anyway, it's never too late to give it one more try.

-Johna Mccaa @ USHealthWorks.com/Union-City-Center