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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Get Your Qi On: Acupuncture

Here in Korea, it’s called “gi” and if you’re not sure what it is you may not know the joys you’ve been missing. Qi, or Gi, if you prefer, is the natural energy flow of the human body and is similar to “prana” in yoga.

In traditional Korean medicine, the body has natural pathways of gi, what western medicine would call “meridians.” In Korean traditional medicine there are symptoms of injuries or  illnesses that are thought to be due to disrupted, blocked, unbalanced or deficient gi movement.  Koreans are big believers in their traditions and this is no exception. While some of the techniques or herbal treatments may seem medieval to some, to others, including this writer, they are absolute saviors from a lifetime of suffering. The most well known technique, acupuncture, has gained moderate acceptance even in western medicine. I am a big fan of acupuncture and its benefits, but will submit to anything the doctor  recommends while visiting the traditional Korean medicine clinic – the han ui wan or 한의완

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There is no known anatomical or histological basis for the acupuncture points or meridians and most western doctors will merely discuss the psychosomatic nature of things. However, that’s where western medicine goes astray. Simply because they cannot prove its existence down to the molecular level, they dismiss it. But for literally thousands of years the Koreans and Chinese have been working their magic on humans with great success.

My own experience with acupuncture goes back years, beginning with a sports injury. I was a regular at the local rock climbing gym and would climb hundreds of vertical feet several times a week.  Over a period of months my shoulder developed a sharp pain that eventually made even hanging a towel at chest height a painful affair. Nothing was broken, nothing was torn or damaged but the best western medicine said I should undergo months of physical therapy and consume vast quantities of anti-inflammatories, COX inhibitors and all manner of costly techniques. Months and thousands of dollars later I was able to climb but the injury never really went away; it just stayed in the background, hiding like some marauding Comanche, waiting for the proper moment to jump out and wreak havoc again which it did with some regularity. Still slightly painful, just some days better and some worse.

Fast-forward a few years later when I landed in Korea. Climbing was and still is a regular sport for me and the proximity of Munsu’s climbing routes made Ulsan a nice choice. I explained a recent bout of shoulder pain to my director and she took me to the local han ui wan. After a brief consultation in English the Dr. promptly laid me out and stuck me with about dozen needles along specific gi pathways.  Some of these needles he plugged into jacks that electrically stimulated the muscles.  Then they  put on a heat pad, I was given a short massage by a nurse and finally they laid me on a quite relaxing massage bed. All this – nearly an hour – for a mere five thousand won.  $5 American. Three visits later and the shoulder was completely pain free.

These days the han ui wan is likely the first place I’ll go. Not because I’ve completely turned into a Korean and swallowed traditional medicine for all things medical – but because most of my medical ailments are sports related. For a guy pushing 50, I try to stay active. But I’m a firm believer in “if it ain’t broken, don’t go to a western doctor.”  Even for such things as colds and flu the han ui wan can provide tremendous relief through their various treatments.

For those of you who suffering from whatever ailments, you might consider visiting the 한의완, the traditional Korean medical clinic. There are several in every neighborhood. The one I go to in Cheonsang, is run by Dr. Lee, a fairly young doctor with very good English. Drop me a line if you want directions to his place.

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