Korean Doctor Visit – ESWT

My body does not react to stress well, and I usually get stressed when I move to a new place, start a new job (or end one), etc. Usually, during and after a big change, my body finds crazy ways to let me know I’m stressed. Sometimes it’s abdominal pain, chest pain, neck pain, and more recently, arm pain.

Before I moved to Japan to teach, I went to the chiropractor to get my neck checked out because I had a lot of tension in my shoulders and neck. The chiropractor took x-rays and told me the skeletal structure of my neck wasn’t curved as it naturally should be, and I went in a few times a week to have my neck cracked.

Once I moved to Japan, I went to the chiropractor, who did similar procedures. But after a while, I didn’t see many results, and a new place opened up near my house, so I started going there. Mainly, it was a cheap place to get a massage (about $5 per one hour session, including massage, electroshock therapy, and some sort of air pressure machine). I went often enough, but still had neck pain and sometimes got pain in my hands and arms from using them too often.

My arm pain started back up in Korea, and would last for a week or two until it slowly went away, if I rested a lot. However, I felt it again a few weeks ago and my husband was worried about me and took me to a doctor he knows (and he knows hundreds of them, since he works in the medical field).

What I love about Korean doctors is all the advanced practices they have at their disposal. We went into the clinic, and I had forgotten to bring my alien registration card, but in Korea, you can see a doctor without proof of insurance, and there’s almost no wait.

I had been scared that I had carpal tunnel, but right away he told me I had some kind of nerve and muscle tension that was causing my pain. He recommended I undergo therapy via an ESWT machine. It’s a procedure that uses shockwaves that move at the speed of sound to deliver tiny waves through the body. It was originally used to treat patients with kidney stones, but doctors soon realized it worked on any part of the body, especially on nerves and muscle tissue.

ESWT on an arm

The practitioner who used the machine on my arms was setting up when I asked her if it was going to hurt. I was expecting her to say, “No, not at all,” but instead she said, “Yes, it will hurt a lot.” I became extremely nervous and terrified, because as an HSP,  I’m extremely sensitive to pain. She put gel on one arm and began to go up and down it with the tool.

The feeling of the machine is strange, as it feels as though a weight is being pressed on my nerves. When the machine is used on places on the body that don’t have any problems, it doesn’t feel like anything. However, there were a lot of places on my arms and wrists that were so painful whenever the machine touched them. I cried the first time I experienced it, mostly because I’m a wimp, but also because it was truly agonizing.

They suggested that I go in about twice a week, and gave me muscle relaxers and pain medication to take for a few days. Today was my second treatment, and it didn’t seem to last as long, but it was more painful than the first time, because instead of going up and down my arm, she found the places it hurt the most and left the machine there for a long period of time, saying that it would work faster that way. The entire time, I was miserable, but it’s so strange how my arms are strained in some places and not in others, and how the machine finds those spots so easily.

I love and hate ESWT now, because I know it really works and has helped me a lot, and the fact that I don’t need surgery or anything is amazing. However, the actual process is maddening. Next time my neck and shoulders hurt, I might see if that machine can find the source of my pain, because no masseuse or chiropractor has been able to ever actually get rid of my neck and shoulder pain.

I’m not sure how much this procedure would cost in America, but I bet it’s expensive. The best part for me is that, since my husband knows the doctor, my treatments are free. I’m sure it’s not very expensive, though, to have it done in Korea, so if you have pain that might be muscle or nerve related, see if you can’t find a place that does ESWT. It will shock and amaze you, quite literally.

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One thought to “Korean Doctor Visit – ESWT”

  1. Oh goodness that sounds so painful, you poor thing! at least you have options there to express, and I hope this machine does the trick. I know in america it would take 2 months to use this thing and probably cost over 1k per visit!

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