In early 2002 I attended the annual NCS Reuben awards which were held that year at the Fiesta American Grand Coral Beach, Cancun, Mexico. It was a great weekend where Anna and I spent a lot of time on the beach and in the pool relaxing. Upon returning home and getting our pictures developed, I was surprised to find a middle-aged, fat guy with my face in most of the pictures. At 36 I had no business having a big roll around my midsection and a gut hanging over my swimtrunks. It seemed a job that had me sitting on my ass all day long and a total lack of exercise wasn’t just catching up with me… it had caught me, pinned me to the couch and stuffed Krispy Kremes down my throat until a pair of 38 pants were getting tight in the waist. It was a wakeup call.
The next week I went to my local gym and met with a personal trainer. I started working out 3 days a week with him. Within 18 months I had transformed my body and today, 4 1/2 years later I am sometimes asked if I compete in bodybuilding. I don’t, and have no interest in doing so. I do it for my health and just to know I can. Right now I am on a routine of 4-5 days a week, mixing it up between training for endurance, strength/power and hypertrophy (getting bigger). I take mountains of supplements but no steroids or precursors. It can be grueling but it’s rewarding in that I can sit for longer, have more energy for work and life, and look much better in my swimsuit than I did that weekend in Cancun.
Now for the bad part… weightlifting takes a toll on your body. I had a history of knee and shoulder problems as a kid due to genetics, and have had to be very careful with what I do to avoid injury. I’ve had a few things crop up, but mostly I have stayed injury-free thanks to smart trainers who listen to me and keep me away from dangerous movements that can exacerbate the shoulder/knee problems. Unfortunately at 40 it’s getting harder to keep off the injury issues, and lately my right shoulder and arm have developed tendonitis/bursitis. It’s getting to the point that it is affecting my workouts, which is bad, but also my regular life, which is very bad. I’ve tried a number of alternative methods to heal, including chiropractic. Nothing made a truly noticeable difference. Just a few weeks ago one of the guys in the gym suggested I try acupuncture, and recommended another guy from the gym who was a practitioner of it. I was skeptical, but thought it would be worth a try. Surgery might be the next option, and that was not something I wanted to think about.
For those who might not be familiar, Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world. Originating in China more than 2,000 years ago, acupuncture began to become better known in the United States in 1971, when New York Times reporter James Reston wrote about how doctors in China used needles to ease his pain after surgery. The term acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. American practices of acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation. You’ve probably seen it in the movies… people lying on a bed with dozens of needles poking out of their back.
I went in to visit the doctor, and after my exam he felt most of my problem was tendon and ligament based, and he felt that acupuncture treatment would provide some relief. Apparently soft tissue problems like that, as opposed to problems with joints and bones, are much more treatable via acupuncture. So, he stuck about 10 needles into my right shoulder. There was no pain, but just a little pressure in one or two spots. Then he hooked up a small device to several of the needles and applied a mild electric current to them. The first time my muscles started to spasm, but settled down in a minute or so. There is a mild tingling sensation in the area of the electrified needle, which slowly disappears after a few minutes, necessitating an increase in voltage once or twice during a treatment. Once it was over, out came the needles (zero blood, these are tiny little needles and only just enter the skin).
I have since had three treatments. I am a natural skeptic and was not expecting much, especially in so short a time. I have to say, however, that there is no question in my mind that there is some noticeable improvement in my shoulder. It’s no miracle, that is for sure, but there is measurably less pain. I can now lay on my right side for quite a bit longer before the pain causes me to roll over. I feel much less pain when I do normal things with that arm. There is no room for doubt, it has made a difference. I was amazed.
I am not saying to everybody: run out and get stuck with needles right away! Acupuncture might not work for everybody, and the relief I am getting now may be the best it will ever get. I don’t know and only time will tell. Still, 2,000 years of accumulated Chinese practice and knowledge has to count for something. Right now count me as pleasantly surprised and hopeful that it will continue to keep me pumping iron for years to come. I have to be able to defend myself at MAD parties as Sergio is known to go on a noogie rampage at any time.
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