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Needled by acupuncture

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NOT my back.

Of all the alternative medicines to try, acupuncture could surely ease what ails one. It dates back to 200BC and is endorsed by the likes of the National Health Service in the UK and the World Health Organisation. I head to a practitioner in Melbourne with no particular complaint in mind.

After quizzing me on my relationship with my father, the practitioner massages my back excruciatingly with her nubby thumbs over soothing whale music, and then sets to tenderising my flesh further with some kind of scrapey ‘Gua Sha’ spoon. “You will have some marks for a few days,” she observes cheerfully.

She taps a needle into my freshly pulverised shoulder blade groove and immediately one kidney sings out in horror… followed a second later by the other.

I start to experience that sense of dread and rising panic one feels in a screaming kidney hangover when one considers the prospect of getting up and going to work the next day, before one sensibly pushes the thought aside and flails pathetically for the pizza menu. There are also heady notes of childhood “don’t leave me” agitation and claustrophobic “what if I can’t get up off this table?” alarm.

After the needles are set on fire (or something — she’s a bit vague) I’m left alone to “get in the zone” and immediately the CD gets stuck on one warbly note, at which point I discover it really hurts when I laugh. I raise my head out of its towelly nook with difficulty, a thin strand of drool connecting us still, but decide that calling out feebly for assistance would just be too much to take.

“I don’t have my diary on me at the moment,” I bluff, once safely upright in reception. The practitioner looks at me sadly, as though she knows we are never going to see each other again, despite me executing my most sincere “sure, we’ll stay friends” smile.

The outcome is somewhat confusing. Dyed-in-the-wool skeptics will tell you there’s no stock in acupuncture whatsoever, yet it’s elicited a reaction in me, even if it’s an unwanted one. Maybe, like when I tried on my special $3 acu-sock, it was just the idea of having my organs messed with that made them cry foul.

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