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Tell me about acupuncture

I don't have any answers in this entry, which will calm those who think I never do. I have questions, and the answers will appear in the comments. I want you to share your experience with acupuncture.

I saw an extraordinary documentary a few days ago titled "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare." It argued that when we speak of "American health care," we should in fact be calling it "American sickness care." There's more money to be made in making healing sick people than in keeping them well in the first place.

This harmonizes with my own notions, and ties into my last blog entry about vegetarianism. The doc, directed by Susan Froemke and Matthew Heineman, doesn't specifically recommend a vegetarian diet. But one of the authorities we meet is Dr. Dean Ornish, has proven that a vegetarian diet, joined with exercise and meditation, can reverse arterial blockage and heart disease. After a long struggle, he finally won Medicare coverage for his approach only two years ago. His patients include such as President Bill Clinton.

The medical establishment would rather treat you with heart surgery. Rare these days is the stent-less family. This film argues that stents are a band-aid and blockage will return. But there is no money to be made for selling prevention.

The movie has a great deal more to say. My review will appear next week. What struck me was material involving a a seriously-wounded combat survivor being returned from Afghanistan on a medical evacuation flight. The overworked emergency personnel on the plane had a capacity load of the wounded, most of them lacking coherent records of their medication or treatment. This man tried to get up from his upper-tier bunk to pee. He fell hard on the floor. The personnel found he had a cocktail of drugs in his system, and was actually clutching the bottle of morphine pills he had been given, which was half empty, with no indication of when he had started taking them.

Later in the film acupuncture is given to this man, who reports himself pain- and drug-free. Is this possible? Is it on the level? The movie says acupuncture has been used and tested by the US Air Force for 25 years, and is a common treatment. It is frequently used on the battlefield--by combat medics, not ancient and bearded healers.

I'm almost embarrassed to say why I'm asking. It involves my right shoulder, which was injured in the course of three surgeries which had nothing to do with my shoulder. Muscle and tissue were harvested or redirected in failed attempts to rebuild my ravaged lower face.

The shoulder now hurts all the time. The pain is negligible compared to what that wounded vet must have felt, but it's chronic. It forces me to walk slowly and unsteadily, and when you see me walking laboriously into a screening, do not assume my pace has anything to do with my cancer. It is a by-product of treatment.

At the Toronto festival, a well-meaning man attempted to lift me from a car by pulling on my trick shoulder. I had to come home early. I'm safest when sitting in my zero-gravity chair. I prefer to get out of cars on my own. My care-giver Flora or my wife stand by to give help when needed. (Hint: In lifting someone, try pulling on their belt or waistband.)

Anyway, do you think acupuncture holds any promise for me? One of the great joys of my life was walking. The cancer itself didn't affect my walking. Possibly my step has been permanently slowed by the physical damage to my shoulder structure.

Give me your best advice. Have you tried acupuncture? Has it helped?

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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