I pinched a nerve in my neck, in a rare fit of real gardening, as opposed to telling Fran where to dig. I raise my own seed and weed a little but found out I can’t wield a hoe like a hillbilly anymore.
Anyhoo, pain and agony for three weeks, without let up. Couldn’t exercise, so quickly de-conditioned, became more breathless and got a lung infection. The old trifecta!
Physio shook her head sadly—12 weeks usually, she said, handing me a neck collar straight out of Doc Martin. (I already feel like I’m choking and hate anything tight round my throat).
One of the world’s best muscular skeletal specialists just happens to be married to my sister, but he lives in another country, damn. He gave me some email help and suggestions, which included acupuncture. Thanks Grant. Next, my oldest brother Chris called, concerned, and shared an amazing story I hadn’t heard before:
In South Korea, where, in another life, he was a Columban missionary priest, he crawled a kilometre or three down a mine shaft on his belly to see for himself the wretched conditions in which men and children were working and dying.
‘You did what?!’
‘You never told Mum that!’
Nekminnit . . . deep inside the earth, a support beam fell, landing on his neck. (I blame the devil).
Chris got out of the mine alive but was in terrible pain. Being in Asia he got great and instant relief for his neck from acupuncture. He hardly ever recommends medical procedures so I was easily persuaded by his enthusiasm. Frankly I’d lick a cane toad if it would help.
This led me to find an acupuncturist, who turned out to be a trained GP, a yoga teacher who studied Chinese medicine in India. (That’s Berry for you). I arrive, limping with a bad hip, a cricked neck, frozen shoulder, numbed fingers, 40 pounds wringing wet, and wearing oxygen and she’s smiled like a buddha and said, ‘I can help you. The lungs I mean.’
Praise the Lord and pass the prescription!
‘You like a challenge?’ I said (eventually).
I detected the faintest Yorkshire accent and she picked my Kiwi, which 34 years on I still relapse into when in pain. Sux instead of six. Which is does.
In my beloved Raymond Chandler paperbacks, this lady doc would be described variously as ‘a long cool drink of water’, or ‘a classy dame’ ‘easy on the eye’.
‘I cannot change the rigidity of your lungs’, she said. ‘Your poor neck and spine. You are already using your neck muscles to breathe instead of your diaphragm, which is squashed by your big lungs’.
OK, so instead of my diaphragm acting like a bellows and fanning the breath upwards, I laboriously draw up each breath with my neck muscles, like hauling water from a deep well. (Just a cheerio to Big Tobacco at this point).
‘I know’, I said. ‘You nor anybody can change the architecture of my lungs.’ Game over.
She said solemnly, ‘I can help you use what you have more efficiently. I have clinical experience of this.’
‘I can also teach you a yogic breathing technique that helps people even in the late stages of lung cancer.’
I was putty.
My leg looked like a porcupine in no time as she peppered me with needles.
Hurt? Nah. When it comes to needles, hurt is when you get a blood /gas drawn from your wrist artery. And it’s a common procedure in lung disease. Insist on a local anaesthetic, people. You’re already suffering enough.
Acupuncture needles are easy-peasey.
My cervical radiculopathy was almost immediately improved by the treatment. I’ve signed up for 5 treatments for my lungs, so will let you know if, as I suspect, acupuncture is of great and immediate benefit to us.
As I left, I told her I believed in regeneration.
‘So do I,’ she said. ‘I’ve seen it with my own eyes.’
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Miner for a heart of gold . . . Neil Young, Harvest, 1972