Another interesting case occurred due to the increased pain level involved.
A female aged 57 presented with day nine of an outbreak of shingles. She had been taking pain killers for 5 days. She was an eye specialist in the China air force.
Shingles is a virus that travels through a nerve pathway of the body. It’s not known why it can re-inflame but it can be from chicken pox years previously for example.
I didn’t catch her description of the pain she was experiencing before she came in but it is well understood to be an extremely painful presentation. We examined the patient and there were red marks on the left side of the back near the armpit and around the left side of the body. Fortunately there weren’t boils or lesions, which is the highly contagious stage of this type of outbreak.
Normal examination procedures progressed, except we were in an open room with 5 interns, 2 assistants and Dr Bai. At this stage all other patients had left though due to finished treatments. The first part of treatment was scraping. This started on the back Bladder meridian and areas reddened straight away around LU, HT, LR and SP Bladder Shu points. As the scraping technique progressed the area indicated was treated. The words “Tong si li” were shouted out by the patient. I know “tong” means pain, but this was a new adaption. Simon (a fellow intern who is fluent in Chinese and English) generously translated that this meant pain like death. The scraping technique continued to below the left armpit area and above the left breast. All these areas are avoided in Western medicine due to the lymph system located in this area. Anyway. At one point TE5, LI4 and LI11 were needled as a pain relief acupuncture which I thought was cool.
The back shu points were then pricked by a lancet and glass jar vacuum cupped. Also around cervical spine 7. The process for the lancet was interesting as both hands were used by Dr. Bai. One hand pushed the area prior to pricking with the lancet with the other hand. This initial body contact makes the process more bearable. Also it was inferred not to take pain killers too. This was stated because it kills ST and SP Qi, some of the areas that came up with initial scraping. The explanation for this on the spot was because in Chinese medicine we are re-cycling everything, unlike Western medicine where things are taken away. As we proceeded one area wasn’t bleeding into the cup enough. The cup was removed and the lancing process repeated on the same spot. Very painful I would guess. While she was sitting in the chair, arms forward, LI11 was also cupped, but with the needles left in.
Needles were inserted at the left side on the Bladder meridian and retained by being taped down. This was explained as the area of the nerve pathway travels there and therefore treated with acu.
The blood filled the glass cups. It was dark. This was explained in two ways. The virus in the blood making it darker (Western medicine) and the level of pain was reflected in the darkness, or Blood Stasis.
The procedure continued as we followed the snake around the body. The Chinese term for this type of pain that follows the nerve pathway. The snake of course travelled below the armpit and above the left breast. The patient now lying down was pricked with the lance in these areas. Her head twisting left and right in agony as she shouted “Tong si li”. Then cupped in these sensitive areas for further bleeding. Sp 10 was also lancet pricked and vacuum cup bled. Then normal needling to ST 36, StT40, SP6, GB 40, LR3 and an extra “secret” point below GB 34. I was told 2 or 3 treatments like this would be needed. Not sure if that is cure or hopefully overall massive pain reduction.
In the Western medicine this is a very difficult case to treat, with the strongest pain killers not having any effect and the pain can last for a year in some cases. Hopefully the treatment this brave lady had will go a long way to pain relief and increased quality of life.