Thursday, May 07, 2009

Single-needle healthcare: Is high-tech acupuncture the wave of the future?

Maybe I'm becoming a hypochondriac, do you think? Lately, something always seems to be going wrong with my body. But have I been taking all this lying down? Sure, absolutely.

This morning, however, I resolved to get my body back into shape and went down to Oakland to get myself checked out at the local acupuncture school. Why not. For only $20, you can get a complete physical diagnosis and tune-up. They check the pulses in your wrists, look at your tongue, ask you a bunch of questions that your primary care doctor never has time to ask you, stick thin silvery needles into your arms and legs, give you some little brown pills -- and voila! You're back on the road.

"What can you find out about the condition of my body just by taking my pulses?" I asked the student who was unlucky enough to get stuck with me as his patient.

"Your pulses can tell me about the condition of all your organs," he replied. But then instead of taking my pulses Old School with his fingers, he whipped out his new Acer laptop and hooked me up to some elaborate hardware plugged into its USB port. Wow! Acupuncture's gone high-tech! The Yellow Emperor, father of traditional Chinese medicine, would be truly impressed.

And then right there on the computer screen were the results of the software's analysis of all my organs -- in graph form. "See how all those red, green, gray and blue bars go up from the baseline? That means that your liver, gall bladder, heart, lungs and kidneys are in pretty good shape. But see how that yellow bar there descends down from the baseline? That means that your stomach is not doing so well."

He could tell me all that -- and with all the illustrations, whistles and bells -- in less than ten minutes? Awesome.

"But aren't you going to take my pulses the old-fashioned way too?" I asked. I mean really. Who trusts a machine?

"No need to. These results look right to me." Yeah, but.... I'm paying twenty whole dollars for this exam. I want the whole nine yards.

"Actually," the student replied, "I don't even have to take your pulses at all. I can tell what your physical strengths and weaknesses are just by asking you ten questions." That's even more interesting. That means that you don't have to go to Taiwan and pay $1,000 for the high-tech machine. All you gotta do is ask ten questions.

"Okay. What are the ten questions?"

"First I ask if you have warm or cold feet."

"Cold feet. REALLY cold feet."

"That tells me that your heart is not circulating your blood as well as it might be. You might have something wrong with your heart."

Next question? "Do you sweat?" No.

"Sweat is the heart's blood." Who'd of thought of that. "When you sweat, your heart gets rid of toxins -- just as your body gets rid of its toxins through your blood." But I never sweat.

"Then exercise more." I can't! I gots bad knees. I hate exercise. And I run like a penguin.

"Then take saunas or steam baths instead." I could do that.

I never did find out what the significance of the other eight questions were because we ran out of time -- he asked me about bowel movements, urination, if I liked to drink hot or cold things, was I always thirsty or not...but he didn't get a chance to explain to me what my answers meant. Maybe next time I could corner him and grill him some more.

And then the student explained to me about how there was series of electrical meridians -- like an invisible wiring circuit -- that run through our bodies, and one of them connects my stomach and spleen to my eyes and toes and everything in between. "Your body's meridians carry electrical currents just like your blood carries oxygen," he explained, "and if one of the organs' electrical currents get blocked, it's as if that particular organ blew a fuse. So what we do is go in with needles to the places where each weak organ's 'fuse box' is located and get the currents flowing again."

And then he acupunctured me at six points on my stomach's electrical currency lines, mainly on my calves and feet. And then I passed out.

"Are you okay?" asked the student. "Would you like some chocolate? Would that help?" Chocolate? Do you got any? "Well, er, no, but...." Hey, they would have given me chocolate at Kaiser! But on the other hand, I would have had to have gone through days' worth of testing and thousands of dollars in costs at Kaiser -- or St. Joseph's or Mt. Sinai -- in order to get the same information I got from this student for twenty dollars and twenty minutes of my time.

PS: Don't make me get all fierce up in your face here yet again regarding America's crying need for single-payer healthcare -- and for single-needle healthcare too.

There is no reason in the world why we can't simply fire all those health insurance middle-men, go straight to the source, save billions of dollars and develop our own healthcare insurance system at half the cost. And acupuncture should be made readily available to everyone as well. Acupuncture is a good thing! And high-tech acupuncture is the freaking wave of the future! And goodness knows that the acupuncture school that I went to in downtown Oakland is churning out top-flight (both high-tech and low-tech) acupuncturists at an amazing rate -- so that every hospital in America can (and should!) have at least one acupuncturist on its staff.

PPS: One person in America has died from swine flu. Millions in America have died from lack of healtchcare. Why isn't the American media and the World Health Organization all over that story? If Mexican nationals living here and tourists who have just come back from Mexico are shunned and quarantined like they have the Plague, then how come health insurance executives and CEOs aren't treated this way too?