What is Prolotherapy?

I have talked a lot about this treatment, but I haven’t really explained what it is. So, let me give you a handy little definition from Wikipedia:

“Prolotherapy, also called proliferation therapy or regenerative injection therapy is an alternative medicine treatment that uses injection of an irritant solution into ligaments or tendon insertion in an effort to relieve pain.”prolotherapy-3d-anatomy

The irritant solution that they use is often just glucose. It’s nothing harmful or out of the ordinary. It isn’t a chemical based solution. Once the solution is injected into the site, the doctor often gives either a local anesthetic or pain medicine to alleviate some of the pain associated with it. The two days after that are incredibly painful as it kick-starts the inflammation process all over again in order to grow new tissue.

As of late, there have been a lot of advocates against the use of anti-inflammatories as a solution to pain or injury because, what we are learning is that inflammation is actually the beginning of the pain process. When someone sprains an ankle, that inflammation is the body’s healing response to the injury. Western medicine has told us our entire lives that this isn’t good and has pushed the consumption of medications such as ibuprofen and the like. As a result, we cancel out the body’s healing process.

So, this is where prolotherapy comes into the equation. A lot of doctors are now supporting this as an alternative to surgery. It is a controversial technique among practitioners of Western medicine, so a lot of doctors brush it off as some hippie dippy stuff. But, there are a lot of people who have given positive feedback that it is actually working. The tissue that regrows; however, has a different composition than that of the original damaged tissue, so, again, there is a lot of debate about how effective this treatment is.

To get rid of the pain, I am willing to try it.

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I had this done on the left side of my body today, not on both sides.

Consultation & The Beginning

Around May, I ended my therapy with a doctor who practiced a hybrid Korean/Japanese kind of thing. I am not sure how to describe it other than he used mallets. They looked painful but did not feel so. His last suggestion to me was to stretch every day, and to walk often. Little did I know, this was just a temporary solution. Fast-forward to August, and I began talking about pain in my upper back, primarily around the C6-C7 (cervical/neck vertebrae) region as well as my T1-T2 (thoracic/upper back vertebrae) region. It wasn’t your run of the mill muscle soreness. At times, it felt as if someone was pushing a knife into my shoulder blades and neck. I had also been having issues where I wake up in the middle of the night and both arms are completely asleep. This is still going on. So, I asked my husband if we could call our health insurance provider for a suggestion of a place I could go that would be able to take my private insurance.

Insurance in Korea doesn’t work the same as back in the States. Everyone must enroll in government healthcare. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking about Obama Care, and well, Obama Care, from what I have read is based on the Korean system or this was a source of inspiration. It’s about fifty or sixty bucks a month, which I think is pretty cheap. This covers basic needs. Not to mention, healthcare is so affordable here. I love being able to go to the doctor for ANYTHING and sometimes only paying around two to four dollars for medicine. I have even paid around $315 for an MRI, which was not covered by insurance.

Now, if you want extra coverage, that’s where private insurance comes into play. There are a lot of options, and you can even find someone who speaks English who can set you up with a plan as well as look into various types of cancer insurance. Chiropractic is covered by insurance, but you have to be careful as it can be tricky when you submit all of your receipts for payout. They often do not pay for those diagnosed with chronic pain. We haven’t done that yet and will do so in about a year, when the treatment is finished. (*fingers crossed that we can get a refund through health insurance*) My husband and I are looking at it as a savings plan because I am looking to get 80 to 90% of what I paid back. Quite surprising isn’t it? Healthcare is great here. Even if I go up to Seoul, I’m still only going to pay a fraction of the cost.

I am getting away from the point, but anyways…we get the name of a doctor that is conveniently near one of my schools, and we go in almost before it closes. The doctor isn’t annoyed in the least bit. He’s more than willing to help me. He efficiently diagnoses my condition and gets an x-ray to confirm it. He then lays out the cost of each visit for me and directs me to the head of physical therapy to set up a reoccurring appointment for physical therapy once a week. So, here I will give a basic breakdown of what one visit could cost. Mind you, prolotherapy injections vary in price depending on the location, but I want to give you an idea of just how much money I am saving by doing this.

Korea:

Consultation Fee: $3.00 (That’s not a typo).

X-Ray: $2.50 (Again, that’s not a typo either).

First Physical Therapy Session (Rolfing Technique): $90.26

UV Light Stimulation: Included in PT cost

Electrical Stimulation Therapy: Included in PT Cost

 

United States:

Consultation Fee: $150 and up

X-Ray: (Without Insurance) $100 – $1000; (With Insurance) $260 – $460

Physical Therapy (Rolfing Technique): $80 – $120

UV Light Stimulation: $25 – $100

Electrical Stimulation Therapy: $132

So, as you can see, the numbers speak for themselves. Even if you cannot get a working visa here, you could come into Korea on a tourist visa and get three months of care for a huge fraction of the cost that it would be in the United States, even without insurance! Later in the week, I will recount my first injection and what to expect as well as some tib bits on my physical therapy. (It is SUPER PAINFUL but worth it.)

Prolotherapy & Pain

A lot of the things that I am intending to write about are a means of catharsis as well as for information. I started physical therapy and prolotherapy about two months ago, and I have been journaling quite a bit to kind of get through it. The first sentence of my first journal entry isn’t a means of complaining, but it is a way of coping with a silent battle that I have had for probably about 20 years. (Pain) Tonight at the dinner table, though, Steven said something to me that later brought tears to my eyes. He said, “You’re a strong person. You will get through this, and remember that you do have a purpose in life. Tell others about pain and that there is life to be lived in spite of waking up some days and “mak[ing] it work.” So here it goes…

Whoever coined the phrase, “No pain. No gain,” should be punched in the face. No, I am not on a diet (even though I probably should be). No, I haven’t been depriving myself of food or exercising for hours on end (although I have been given that advice here on numerous occasions, but that is for another time and place). I am one of thousands, if not millions. I suffer from chronic pain, more specifically myofascial pain. It is a type of pain that affects the ligaments and connective tissues of the body and is often difficult to diagnose as it is very similar to fibromyalgia. This pain has been ongoing for about twenty years, and, according to my doctor, is something that will continue to get worse as I get older. (But he said it is manageable, and I can do something about helping myself now as opposed to later when it really gets too late.)

Not a day has gone by that I don’t feel some sort of pain, mostly radiating from my neck and shoulder area but not limited to my lower back and hips. I have suffered from debilitating migraines that I used to get once every six months but two years ago started becoming more frequent. Last year, I recall it was every two months and this year started to become once a month. On one occasion, I was hospitalized for a few hours that night.

After some research, I learned that they are cervicogenic headaches and are because of a muscle at the base of the skull. The muscle spasms uncontrollably and often medication has made it hard to manage. Over Chuseok, I lay in bed and had to let it just spasm. The pounding is rather rhythmic and a lot of contemplation concerning life and an existential crisis usually occurs. As they have become more frequent, it takes a toll on the psyche and creates quite a bit of  brain fog.

This is all beside the point of my initial post and making for a rather long post. Future ones will not be as long as this one. To put it bluntly–I effing hurt. After about three years of different types of medical and alternative therapy sought out with the help of my awesome husband and going to countless doctors with an MRI to boot, I think I have found a more permanent solution, and it has been touted in The States as “the alternative to surgery.” (People with bulging discs have even raved about this treatment.) It’s actually working this time, but the treatment length has been prescribed for at least a year or more.

Here’s the rub…providence led me to Korea for so many reasons, and after six years here, one of them is physical healing.  I just want to write about my experiences with this treatment. It is quite painful but in this case, “No pain. No gain” works. The therapy is one-tenth of the cost it would be in The States, and even here it is not cheap. It’s worth the money, though, and I feel like it is saving my life in more than one.

Through my treatment, I want to share my thoughts on pain and the treatment of pain. I am an anti-pain killer and anti-medicine person. I have felt most of my life that we are too anesthetized in America, and I have seen people I know lose themselves to various prescription drugs. So, I have often refused to take any medication unless absolutely necessary. During this treatment, I am terrified of taking anything because I most certainly cannot take anti-inflammatory meds. It cancels out the process of prolotherapy. (I will explain what it is quite soon.)

I have suffered mostly in silence (I feel like I have gotten more vocal about it as it has gotten worse, and I feel like a loser for that.). Now I am talking about it. The brain fog associated with all of this has greatly impacted my relationships, and most people have not been able to understand why I have almost fallen off the face of the planet, especially people on Facebook, a place where it feels like people put too much stock in who says what to you or who doesn’t say anything to you. Some people think, “Look at her. She thinks she is better than people because she lives in Korea.” That is the farthest thing from the truth, but whatever. I used to be so active. I try to be active now as well, but it isn’t the same as before.  I have run in 10 km races thanks to my awesome friend. I was even able to run a half marathon. But as the pain got worse, and I couldn’t explain it, I started seeking answers and trying to correct the issue.

On most days, my three is another person’s 300 on the pain scale. Through this healing process, a weight is being lifted from me, and I feel lighter as my body aligns itself back into the proper place. All of the pain will never completely go away, but this at least helps in managing it.  Other things are going away, but it is also a psychological process as well. It’s not easy. I look to my mom and think though, she had it so much worse. She faced death, and she came out on the other side. My mom is my inspiration. We have passed the two-year anniversary of her double transplant, and she as well as even her own mother never once complained about their pain and how they felt. I wish I could be more like them.

In this process, I am finding out that I really am a strong person. I am not weak. Somewhere I have a purpose in this world. I am going through just like anyone else.

Off to Canada (They Go)

Steven and I lived with my sister-in-law and her children for about a year and a half. The circumstances of how we came to live together isn’t fodder for a public forum and pertains to her family; however, we lived together, and it was both good and bad. What I take from the experience is a closeness to family that I haven’t been able to feel in a long time considering that my blood relatives are half a world away. I feel so grateful to have been a part of their family and their life, and we learned so much from each other.

So…on Friday, my sister-in-law, her son and her daughter will leave Korea and make the trek to Canada. They plan to settle in Newfoundland. We knew this was coming, but time sort of crept up on us and now we are on the almost eve of their departure. We are making last minute plans to meet together and transferring her car into my name. The kids and she came over today to try to set up car insurance, but that is so difficult here, even for her. I watched the kids play with Ace our dog. The little thing loves them so much, and he whined for twenty minutes after they left.

I will miss Heechan and Yesan. I am not sure if I can ever have children of my own (that may take a possible miracle), but to be a part of their lives has been a privilege. I watched their mom move down here with us; get a job; and provide for them all the while depending on us (mostly Steven) to help with school and taking them places, but she mostly did it on her own without much help from us, and I think to myself that it is so hard for a single mom. How do they do it? God only knows. Hats off to moms both single and married. You’re rock stars in my book. I look at you from afar with a tinge of envy.

What I got out of all of this was a bigger family. (To be accepted by Steven’s family as I have has been really nice and less stressful than many of the stories I hear of in-laws from hell.) Steven’s sister and the kids will be half a world away also, but they are there, present. I learned so much about how to cook Korean food and about Korean culture from living all together with them. Of course I have lived here for six years, but it’s so different once you become integrated and married into a family here, and it isn’t terribly easy to merge two different cultures together in a marriage. She and I figured out our own way to communicate, and in a way, she was my ally and has greatly helped me understand my husband. (They have been almost inseparable since childhood.)

It has hit me in waves…the finality of things. Tonight, I cried because I won’t be able to see them off at the airport on Friday, but I hope that they can only know how much they do mean to me. Through the peaks and the valleys, we had a merging of West meets East, and it was a wonderful thing. I taught her how to make cobbler. She taught me how to make seaweed soup among so many other things. When I was feeling sick, she treated me with an ancient remedy to alleviate nausea.

In some coming blog posts, I hope to share some of our past experiences. I met the kids when they were around three or four, and now one will be in second grade, and the other will be in third grade when they get to Canada. I can only wish them the best. They are frantically packing, and tomorrow night I, Steven’s brother, Steven’s father, my other sister-in-law and baby niece will have a party to wish them the best for this next chapter of their lives.

Mountains

I live in Daejeon, South Korea. It’s a city surrounded by mountains. The entire peninsula is mountainous terrain. So, it’s a bit difficult to escape not only the mountains but also the sea which is accessible by driving west, east or south. I have been thinking a lot about mountains lately. What do they have to offer us? Well, that’s a rather loaded question; however, the answer is simple, and you already know it. They give us our life’s breath. (I can think of a million more clichés to give as an answer.) Mountains here are dense. The sides of mountains that lay bare in this area have rocks that look as if you cold just scrape off a piece and take it with you.Whereas, in other parts, they are so dense with trees, I imagine that someone has taken a cake and just piped on little tufts of icing, just bouncing around and putting them here and there until it is completely filled with green.

A typical word to describe feeling and color in Korean is “verdant green” 초록색 (chorok saek). “Verdant” typically signifies lush vegetation and a vibrant green that gives the feeling of life in abundance.It’s not the same lush green that I found in Louisiana and that I so deeply connected myself to for the first thirty years of my life, but, nonetheless, it’s a hue of green that I now find myself drawn toward in the last thirty years of my life and yet, I still have 24 more of those next or last years to go. And so it goes, green must be the color of my life.

Now, most people associate the color green with that of envy, yet it reminds me of the constancy of nature, the ever-turning circle of life as so demonstrated in the plant kingdom. And, of course, plants get their green hue from little chloroplasts that produce chlorophyll. I think to myself, “Plants have it all. They can make their own food and can sustain given the proper amount of sunlight and rain. They do not need the help of another to live.”

So, what is all this talk of plants, and why do I ramble? Plants live on the mountain, a large fortuitous being that allows them to share space with it. They cohabit together forming their own little ecosystem and their own little world, and then I bring myself to the idea of marriage. I am a wife, something that even after three years I feel hesitant to call myself. I cohabit with another person, but we are by no means symbiotic. Nor are the plants and the mountain. We can easily transport the plants to another place, and they could easily thrive–given that it isn’t desert or tundra. (Or maybe I am wrong and full of crap here.)

I am a married woman. I have a husband, but what is this little thing we call marriage? I feel the need to write again, and from time to time, I hope to post here as a means of catharsis. Some tend to think that marriage is like climbing a mountain. Once we get to the top, we realize what we have gone through to get to that peak, and yet, we inevitably have to go back down and into the valley only to try to climb high again. I often feel that love coincides with that amount of effort that we put into climbing a mountain. We cannot stop and sit down for long. We just have to keep going.

Oscar Fever–The First Portrait Exhibition by Lee Ji-Won

doodoo

I was unable to take photos at the exhibition. Plus, I didn’t want to seem rude, so I opted for pictures off their website as well as my own from the pamphlet I got.

Earlier this week, Steven mentioned that his mother’s dear friend had a daughter that had been learning a specific art form for two years and was about to have an exhibition of her work.. Previously, Lee Ji-Won (the artist of this exhibition) was a student who wanted to become a dietician/nutritionist and had studied for many years in this field. Two years ago, she changed direction and began painting and pursuing a career or hobby in painting.

From what I gather of the back story, in her childhood, she took art classes in middle school from a master whose expertise was in the art of painting movie posters. This is actually a dying art form as no one really needs someone to come to the cinema and paint a “movie poster” of what they’re showing for the release period considering that we are now in the era of 3-D and 4-D movies where one can simply produce a high-quality movie poster using a computer and specific software. Because of this, her area of painting is something that is very unique and extraordinary, especially since one day it may no longer be something that people choose to do. The most notable artist of this type of art is the Taiwanese painter, Yan Jhen-fa. (Doing a simple Google search will render several news articles about him.)

Apparently, she met her teacher/master again two years ago, and he started training her in this type of painting. The exhibition is the product of her two years of work. The exhibition is October 9-15th and has an Oscar-related theme. She has painted various classic actors and actresses as well as world-renowned actors and actresses of our generation. Going in, I thought that it would be, how do I put it…rather cute or a nice experience, but what I didn’t expect was the quality and raw talent presented in front of me. It was simply amazing, and I was quite speechless upon looking at her work.

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This is the cover…Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift

Anyways, Lee Ji-Won, the artist, is amazing. Her work was breath-taking. I felt a sense of nostalgia looking at the paintings and was most struck by her rendition of Marilyn Monroe. Last year I saw the biopic “My Week with Marilyn,” and got a bit of information about her life from a narrative that may have shown the viewer only one week of her life, but it was very telling in just how miserable she had become….this painting was especially striking because as you look into the eyes of her within the painting, you see a deep sadness and sense of longing for something in her life to be different. Also, she cradled herself as if she was trying to hold herself up from the weight of whatever was holding her down. This is just my interpretation.

One noteworthy anecdote about the artist:

When Tom Cruise came to Korea to promote his film, Mission Impossible IV, she was in the crowd holding a painting of him. She was able to take a picture with him as well as give him the painting for a gift. Hopefully, he has this hanging in his house somewhere as a nice tribute to her. ^_^ 

I am sure that the Seogu Cultural Center has so much more to offer for those living in the area of Tanbang-dong. So, I suggest that you get out there and seek out some information. 🙂 Also, take a nice stroll through the area of Daheung-dong, a few subway stops away. Find a nice little coffee shop and spend the afternoon or evening pursuing your creative side. Daejeon has so much to offer…and I hope to add to the already growing number of expats who share their experiences here.

Natalie Portman and Clint Eastwood

Natalie Portman and Clint Eastwood

Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor

Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor

James Stewart and Grace Kelly

James Stewart and Grace Kelly

To get to the Seogu Cultural  Center

By Subway: 
Tanbang Station, Stop 110 (Exit 5)

Walk straight for a few minutes, and you will see the building on your left.

By Bus:

Take buses 104, 105 or 706

For Navigational Purposes:

대전광역시 서구 계롱로 553번길 38(탄방동 667번지)

Daejeon Metropolitan City, Seogu, 553 Gyerong Street


Website Information: http://www.sgcc.or.kr/index.php?mc=01&md=05