Today’s Korean Phrase: Chim Yobeob= Acupuncture
Being a performer can take quite a toll on your body, especially here at English Village. We perform around 12 shows a week, when we’re not performing we are painting sets and in rehearsals, and while it is very nice to live where we work, it also means no one has a car so to get anywhere in Paju we rely mainly on foot power. Because of this, and to fulfill a life long curiosity, I went down the street to the local medical center to check out acupuncture.
The clinic is about a 20 minute walk from GEV, which normally wouldn’t be a problem at all. Sadly today was a blazing 95 degrees Fahrenheit and around 70% humidity so by the time we reached the medical center we were soaked through with sweat. We walked into the glorious air conditioned lobby and hoped that the nurse took long enough on the necessary paperwork for us to cool down and dry up. This was not the case, and I went in to talk to the doctor a sopping and surely stinky mess. I discussed my recurring upper back pain and he brought me into a little room to lay down on a heating pad for a while (exactly what I needed….ugh) Around five minutes later I was feeling pretty relaxed and the doctor came in with the needles. Usually I am a little squeamish when it comes to needles but these little guys are so tiny that you really can hardly feel them. There was only one that got put in my calf muscle that really felt weird and made my whole leg want to twitch. I only had them placed in my right arm and right leg to begin with, but Edutainer Ryan (who has troubles with his lower back) said when he went he had them placed in both his temples. Creepy.
I laid there in my heated bed for around 20 minutes with needles in my body until the doctor came back to remove them. Now, Korean acupuncture is a little different than other cultures, and you don’t actually have that many needles stuck in as you do pressure points hit. Koreans really only use the needles in the extremities, mainly the hands, so they have other methods of dealing with the pressure points on your back. One of these ways is a machine that looks like a device used for milking cows. They spray water on a sponge inside each fist sized tube, and using electric pulses these tubes massage your pressure points with a feeling similar to an octopus attacking your back. It’s a gentle attack though, it feels really excellent.
The other method they have for hitting pressure points is what is called “cupping.” At this point I was laying on my stomach so I was unable to see what was going on behind me, but here is what I heard: “woosh-schloop, woosh-schloop, woosh-schloop” I rolled my head to the side just enough to see the cause of the sound was little ceramic cups being held over a flame quickly and then suctioned tightly to the skin on my back. The feeling was different to say the least, and I’m not quite sure how this process gets through to the muscles on the back, but I’m not going to questions thousands of years of Eastern medicine. Though the cupping was not painful at all, it left my back looking like the Hickey Monster had done quite a number on me.
I’m glad I went to see what chim yobeob was all about, and while I didn’t feel immediate relief from it like some of my co-workers did, I will continue to go over the next year to see if I can make a dent. Plus, the entire hour long process only cost me 9,000 Won (around $8.50 USD) so in true Korean fashion , when it comes to taking care of your body, the price is right.