Sunday, November 30, 2008

My first doctor's visit in Taiwan

I have bunches of photos to post, but before I do that, I just had to jot down my first experience at a doctor's office in Taiwan. I'm thankful for my coworker Matt. He's an American who speaks fluent Chinese (and Japanese...God, how I hate him, lol). He kindly walked me through the entire process today.

First of all, today is Sunday. Yes, Sunday—and I was able to see a doctor. Second, no appointment necessary; just walk right in. After filling out one tiny form and presenting my health insurance card, I was seen in about five minutes.

I went to the doctor's because of my frequent neck and back pain (from previous injuries), and the related headaches. The first person to see me felt my neck, head, and back, then took my pulse and looked at my tongue. She asked me a few questions (about exercise, headache location, etc.) then recorded the information on the computer. This is handy because I'll be able to go again by myself without having to explain in my terrible Chinese what's wrong. Plus, the information is in a central database, so I can visit any doctor on the island without having to fill out reams of medical history forms.

After the initial screening, I was laid out on a table and given a gentle yet effective massage. The doctor was able to locate the vertebrae that were compressed and/or misaligned, and massaged and manipulated my body to relieve some of the pressure. I could tell that I was very much out of alignment. I got an intense head rush when I sat up, probably because I hadn't eaten breakfast, so the staff provided some ginger candy to balance out my blood sugar.

After that, I was laid out on a machine that reminded me of a Medieval torture device. For 15 minutes it rhythmically stretched my body. It didn't hurt, but actually felt quite relaxing.

Next, I was put in a neck traction type of device for 15 minutes. I watched TV during the treatment. Following that, electric muscle stimulators were attached to my neck and lower back.

Finally, cool-temperature herbal bandages were affixed to my neck and back, and I was sent on my way with some herbal medicine to take for 7 days.

I was worked on for over an hour, more thoroughly than I had ever been treated by an American chiropractor. The cost for all of this? Only NT$150 (US$4.50!), which included the herbal medication. This low cost is because of Taiwan's national health insurance. I could never afford to get regular chiropractic treatments in the US, but at $4.50 a visit I'm going to try to get in at least twice a week.

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