As I drove toward my first-ever acupuncture session, seeking relief for my aching neck, I kept remembering this funny thing that had happened to me once in a hospital in Atlanta. I’d gone in for a vaccination and then, just as the nurse was about to stick me with the needle, I’d remembered that I’d forgotten to lock my car. I stood up abruptly and said,“ I’ll be right back.” The nurse chuckled, then gripped my arm and looked me square in the eye. “You know,” she said, “I’ve had guys in here who suddenly realize they’re pregnant when they have to have an injection.” I laughed sheepishly and sat down again.
I rubbed my aching neck. I had wrenched it while doing Jiu-Jitsu and all the muscles connected to my upper spine had clenched up, hard as rocks. I could barely move my head. If I looked down, pain flashed through my whole back.
But would acupuncture really be able to help? It all seemed like mumbo jumbo to me. I shook my head, then gripped my neck in pain. Ow! Another episode flashed through my mind: I remembered sitting in a run-down little clinic in Ecuador while a technician took blood from my vein. As I sat alone in the rusting metal chair I saw my arm turn dark then black. The tech had missed the vein and I was bleeding into the muscle. He didn’t come back for a long time and it took me months to heal up again.
By the time I reached the entrance to the Centro de Ser toward the Lagoa side of Canto de Lagoa my heart was pounding. I imagined someone sticking needles into my eyes. Piercing my spine. Rupturing my brain pan and poking a hole into my brain. But I was not going to be deterred by fear. I needed help and I was willing to risk anything to get it.
A friend had recommended the services of William Bening, M.Sci L.Ac., an American living in Florianópolis, who is trained in Trigger Point Therapy, acupressure, and also (gulp!) acupuncture. The word “puncture. . . puncture” kept repeating in my head as I got out of the car.
William has a shock of surfer- blonde hair and the tanned skin of a guy who likes the waves. A native of San Diego, William was trained at Traditional Chinese Medicine University in his home town. After four years of study William was licensed to administer acupuncture treatment. He specializes in the treatment of pain–both emotional and physical–especially sports and work injuries. He is is also trained in nutrition, massage, and Chinese herbology–though he does not pactice herbology in Brazil as of yet. William explained that Chinese medicine is at least three thousand years old and capable of treatments beyond the reach of modern, Western medicine. William explained that “Trigger Point Therapy” is like a “golden key” that unlocks quick solutions to all kinds of pain problems.
As I listened to him and grasped his broad understanding of the human body and its intricate workings, I felt more and more relaxed. Until, that is, it was time to hop up on the table. Suddenly my heart began racing and the words “You put the lime in the coconut . . . “ started running in my brain again.
As soon as I was on the table William grabbed my foot and starting twisting and turning. I was relieved. This was the sort of thing I was used to. In Jiu-Jitsu there’s always someone trying to twist your joint out of place. William threw the foot down and grabbed the other and began twisting.
Pop! said the joint.
William explained that through constant use our joints gradually slip out of place. His job is to pop them back into place—realign them. He did the same for my hands. Then he asked me to turn onto my stomach. He stepped away and produced a large, metal rod, rounded at the end and with various extensions sticking out. At the end of the extensions were iron balls. William explained that this instrument was called a thera-cane.
William began to push on various places on my back and ask me if the pain radiated outward toward other parts of the body. If I said yes, then he would apply direct pressure to the spot and hold it there for ten to twenty seconds. William, it turns out, is a pretty strong guy. But the more he pushed on these areas with his device, the more I felt them relax.
William moved quickly from spot to spot, working on me.
“Feel this?” he asked, poking the muscle at the base of my neck. “This muscle is full of little bumps. That means that it’s contracted and doesn’t know how to relax. That’s what I’m going to do now. Just remind it to unclench.” He pushed down hard on the muscle, when he released the pressure blood flowed in and I could feel that everything was returning to normal.
When he had finished with my back he began to press points along the nape of my neck. I felt a muscle at the base of my skull pop. Then pop again.
“Perfect,” he said. “That’s exactly what you want.”
When he released his grip I felt the muscle go all loose and soft. What bliss! I gave myself over to William’s therapy, understanding that he knew exactly what to do in order to make my twisted neck relex again.
When he was finished with the pressure points William said, “Okay, now it’s time for the acupuncture.” I felt a slight twinge of fear, but now I was too relaxed to really be afraid.
I noticed a slight prick as the first needle went in, but really it was nothing like a hypodermic needle. William explained that the acupuncture needle is just a tiny fraction of the width of a hypodermic. I felt the needles going in, but it wasn’t painful at all.
“Now,” he said after he’d lodged the last needle in the top of my skull, “just lie there and relax. Many people fall asleep. Others go into a dream state. This acupuncture pattern is a simple tonic. When you come out of it you will feel calm and energized. I’ll be right back.”
My mind went lax and colors and images drifted before me. I thought of the lake, still as mirror beneath drifting clouds. Of the long legs of the blue crane I’d seen wading there that morning.
“Okay, that was just a brief session,” William said, startling me out of my reverie. “You were only under for like twenty-five minutes. Usually it’s more like forty-five.”
“Twenty-five minutes?” I asked. “It felt more like five.”
William smiled. I stood up and looked around. I felt calm and centered. I turned my head this way and that, up and down. It was as loose and flexible as I could ever remember.
William Bening, M.Sci L.Ac, is trained in Trigger Point Therapy, acupressure, and acupuncture. You can contact him via email at Noland3000@gmail.com or via mobile at (48) 8818-4348. He attends clients at Centro do Ser, on Canto da Lagoa about a 100 meters south of Nave Mae, Rua Laurindo do Januario da Silveira 1408, Florianópolis, SC, Brazil. Tel. 55(48) 3233-5097.