Tuesday, June 30, 2009


A Point of Tension

Sometime last July (the exact date escapes me) I attempted to bench press 210 pounds four times. Well, I didn't just attempt, I succeeded, but I've never been the same since.

The next day a pain in my upper left pectoral began to throb, and soon it had spread all over the shoulder area. It lingered mostly in the region where the arm and the shoulder connect. At first I decided to hold off on the lifting for a few months.

In October I tried lifting some light weights at home, and after a few times it started acting up again. I went to a doctor at the hospital where Catherine works, but he mostly dealt with spinal problems and didn't have much to tell me except to rest (a very common suggestion among doctors, I find).

There was another doctor at her hospital who was an orthopedic specialist, but I had trouble arranging appointments with him because of my schedule, in which I traveled from Chuncheon to Seoul and back almost every day. When I finally did get to see him in March, he said there was a bit of fluid between the arm and shoulder bone caused by repetitive exercise. He advised me not to lift (except leg exercises, plus bicep curls were okay) and also to avoid putting my left arm above my head or behind my back.

He seemed confidant that within a month it'd be okay.

Well, I can't say I followed his advice perfectly (do you ever really think about how often you put your arm behind your back over your head?) but I followed closely enough that it should've gotten better, I think. It hasn't, though, and I've had recurring painful inflammation in that area every time I've been required to lift something, even a relatively light box over my head while working around the house.

I saw the same doctor in early June, and this time he gave me some plastic bands for exercises designed to strengthen my shoulder muscles. I used them for about three days, after which I could tell that if anything they were making it worse.

This drove me to consider acupuncture. I've had it done before; first when I was really sick in Suncheon about three years ago, and then last year when I severely sprained my ankle and it swelled up like a water balloon. I could see an obvious effect in terms of how the swelling diminished, so I figured it would be worth a try in this case.

I first went yesterday, and found it to be nothing like the acupuncture I received before. Usually they put lots of needles in the point of injury and in a few other places. This time, after I told the doctor the problem, he had me lie on a bed with a heating pad over my shoulder for about 10 minutes. Then he came in and poked me several times with a needle on my shoulder, back, arm and side. Didn't leave it in, just poked.

Then, he poked the spots on my shoulder seen above with a smaller needle, drawing blood. His assistant attached small bottles to the sites he poked, catching the blood while leaving me with the bruised areas you see. After leaving the bottles attached for several minutes, they then attached a kind of electronic massaging device, which left a pair of lesser marks, one of which you can see in the pics if you look closely enough.

After that, I was done, and he told me to come back the next day if it still hurt.

As of today the pain had diminished, but some remained, so I returned to the acupuncturist again. I received the same treatment, except this time the electronic massage came before the stabbing with the small needle. I feel a little soreness in that area (and quite a bit from the poking with the needle), but we'll see if it continues tomorrow. I don't know how any of this is actually supposed to help, but I didn't know last year and it seemed to then.

I would like to begin exercising more vigorously again, though I doubt I'll ever attempt to bulk up through lifting heavy again. Right now, I'd settle for being able to lift a box over my head without feeling it for three days afterward.

We'll see how it goes.


[pictures] It looks like traces "hijama'' will leave on your shoulder after the treatment .. where i come from, it's a traditional medicine. Didn't know koreans use it nowadays too! interesting.. [smart choice] now i know you'll be perfectly fine sooner than i expected: )
Remember the good old days at the Community Center before they took out a chunk of my back and sucked blood out of your arm. We pumped a lot of iron back then. Now, approaching 30, I feel a lot older than that. But I've come to realize that I can still tear down an innocent wall or unsuspecting floor when I’m asked to help demolish the inside of a house.
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