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My Acupuncture Experience


*Trigger warning for talk of acupuncture and descriptions of what it feels like.*

Some of you may recall an on-going knee problem I have mentioned here from time to time. The truth is, it’s been about a year and a month since it first began and with little income and zero health insurance I had not seen anyone about it yet. I had been meaning to try acupuncture again since it had helped me years ago with some back pain I was having due to a terrible chair at an even worse job. I was surprised just how quickly it worked and lasted. So, I finally broke down this week, after much procrastination, and scheduled an appointment at the local Five Branches University for their acupuncture clinic. Since my experience was so good last time I had some high hopes.

Skip to last Friday, I was scrambling to get ready after over sleeping when I text a friend where I was going. They said, “Wow! Acupuncture? U R Brave!” It hadn’t occurred to me that it is still a scary thing to those who’ve never been. I do realize that many have a fear of any and all needles, natural I would say. But I love tattoos and piercings and while I find a real sense of healing and cleansing from such moments of consensual pain, acupuncture is nothing like either. When asked to describe the experience, well, it is a bit difficult.

One thing I really appreciate about this clinic, or Eastern medicine, is that they tend to focus on the root cause of an issue instead of simply attacking the symptoms. This is my opinion, based on very little but my own thoughts and experiences. The first thing they did with me was take me into an exam room, sit down and talk to me, face to face. This seems radical to some of you, myself included. Actually, I was impressed/pleased with the intern assigned to me as he offered me three different types of chairs to sit in and asked me to choose which would be most comfortable. I chose the armless one, the others were one with a built-in desk thingy or one with arms. He asked about my knee, my energy level, my activity, my diet, my sleep quality and the color and consistency of my eliminations. Next he took my pulse from both wrists and then briefly examined my tongue. Note that not once did he mention or ask about my weight.

He had to consult his teacher and asked me to lay on the table. I removed my ever present teggings and laid down. When he returned he asked a couple of questions about the location of the pain and if I’d noticed any patterns. Sadly, no patterns and the pain in all of it’s variations seems to be perfectly random. With that, he quickly went about prepping my knee by swabbing it with alcohol and positioning a pillow beneath. Next he started to insert the needles. I will say here that these are very tiny, but long, needles. They are not inserted deeply and how they are inserted feels a bit like someone flicking you with their finger nail. Very gently, very quickly and I felt next to nothing at all for the most part.

He placed 8 needles in my right knee, one in my left knee and one in the back of each of my hands. I wanted more! Ha-ha! I like how it feels, but again, I love tattoos and am not squeamish about needles except when having blood work in a hospital, they always seem to fuck me up. Next, he hooked up all of the needles in my left knee to this sort of electronic pulse machine. It felt like a pulsating vibration, only with a pin prick sort of edge to it. Like, a tad itchy, no pain what so ever. Then he put a heat lamp over the area and talked to me a bit before leaving me to pulsate for ten minutes.

I’d had something similar before in physical therapy for a foot fracture and that had zero needles and actually hurt a lot. This was by far a more pleasant experience, on many levels. Then he asked me if I had heard of “ear seeds” and as it turned out I had just been talking to someone this week about it. He was pleased that I had and explained that if I was into it that he wanted to give me two in each ear. The ear, he said, was a reflection of the human body, certain parts correlating to parts of the body. He wanted to give me one for my knee and one for stress/sleep issues. I was game!

When he was done placing the ear seeds, just imagine a small bead with a bit of bandage over it, we talked a bit more. He showed me his own ear seeds which he is using to hopefully improve his vision. I was stoked about this as I am a bit obsessed with bionic eyes and cannot wait until I can have a set of my own, but I digress. He instructed me to press the seeds 2-3 times per day for 2 minutes or so, for a few days. After this he began removing the needles and wishing me the best. He asked that I get up and get ready to leave very slowly as many people often feel dizzy or light headed. I took my time, but felt neither. In fact I felt pretty great. He lead me back to the front desk where I paid my $27 and made an appointment for next Friday. I am going dancing on Saturday and I want my knee to be feeling as good as possible so I can dance the night away to Prince & MJ!

I left the clinic and grabbed some coffee on my way back home and I must admit, I was feeling awesome! A good friend has told me that she often feels post acupuncture euphoria and while I’m not sure I was feeling euphoric, I was pretty dang close to it. Part of this was that it was my day off, it was sunny and clear outside and I was in no pain. Then I threw on some 90’s dance party hits on Songza (awesome smartphone app) and was near blissed-out!

I don’t know exactly how acupuncture works, but it just does. It has a similar effect as massage, only it is quicker, longer lasting and right now for me, cheaper. I am hoping that it helps my knee and that I can be more active again, I do miss running and playing with the puggyman. I miss being able to run downstairs or go upstairs without pain. This past year has made me feel unable to trust or rely on my knees and I have grown accustomed to either avoiding the stairs or white knuckling my way up the hand rails when possible. I am fortunate to have the mobility that I do, please don’t get me wrong. But I have so much energy that I am unable to burn due to the pain and unreliability in my knee. I love to dance more than just about anything and the pain keeps me from doing it.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. If you’d like to share your own experiences, please do. 🙂

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5 Comments to

“My Acupuncture Experience”

  1. On September 17th, 2012 at 9:15 am Carol Gwenn Says:

    Acupuncture: closest thing to a medical miracle I’ve ever experienced!

    Were it not for the wonderful people at the Royal Dong-Guk University in L.A., I doubt I’d be able to walk upright. Got sent there after a nasty fall a few years ago & recommend it for any number of ailments.

    For anyone who is hesitant & lives in a city with a good-sized Asian population or a Chinatown, check out all the elderly, spry, healthy-looking folks on the street. Many of them have never availed themselves of Western medicine, relying on Asian herbal meds & acupuncture to cover their needs. If it’s good enough for them & keeps them in top form well into old age, why not the rest of us?

    Am always delighted to hear from another person out there who’s had good experiences with Asian medicine & spreads the word. Hope you keep on going for as long as you need to & that you can dance away as many pain-free nights as you like!

  2. On September 17th, 2012 at 1:45 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    Carol: Thank you so much for sharing your experience here. Thank you so much for your kind words. <3

  3. On September 17th, 2012 at 1:17 pm librarychair Says:

    My experiences with acupuncture have also been overwhelmingly positive. I went to Detroit Community Acupuncture, a community clinic with a sliding pay scale where everyone being treated chills in one big room in armchairs with quiet ambient music and soft lighting. At one point I was going once a week, and more often at particular times of the month, for endometriosis pain and lingering pain from a knee injury. Most times I’d zone out or fall asleep, often having lovely visions and dreams and a rather pleasing drifting-away feeling. From doing it multiple times I learned that I had to have extra blankets under my knees and shins, to keep the foot rest from digging into my unusually large calf muscles and making me uncomfortable. I also usually tried to get into the chair or chairs with wide arms so that I could settle my arms in a more natural position, but that wasn’t always possible since sometimes they were occupied before I got there. The acupuncturist (or “acupunk” as she likes to call herself) was very accommodating, and once we learned that needles in certain places (for me, the ears) tended to be painful, we just didn’t do needles there anymore.

    The first time I went, I had an interesting experience. I had been having enormous stress in my relationship and I had been holding it all in. As soon as she put in the first few needles and I started to relax, I just began crying uncontrollably. The acupunk was concerned but let me make my own decisions about it. I managed to stay quiet for the most part, other than sniffling, but I just cried for 45 minutes straight while the needles were in. I hadn’t been able to do that very much until then. It was hard but I think it was really good for me. That happened one other time, when I had been having a ridiculous amount of endometriosis pain and it was giving me a lot of emotional stress.

    I can’t say that it’s evidence based, because everyone who does it seems to have different ideas about how to do it. But it seems to work, even if it’s just a placebo, and I think that more than anything, having someone pay caring and compassionate attention to your needs goes a long way towards making you feel better. It’s not something that most of us get as adults, even from conventional medicine.

  4. On September 17th, 2012 at 1:44 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    LibraryChair: Thank you for sharing your experience. I know what you mean about the emotional release aspect. I had that once after a deep tissue massage. I felt a deep sense of falling, emotionally. It took me awhile to process, but luckily the therapist was also my husband so he was more than compassionate.

  5. On September 18th, 2012 at 11:03 am The Well-Rounded Mama Says:

    I do acupuncture all the time. Discovered it in my last pregnancy, where it was a godsend for various pregnancy aches and pains.

    I’ve found that the acupuncture experience varies a lot by practitioner. With one, I never had any pain or discomfort on inserting needles, with my present one I sometimes get some brief discomfort (like a tingling or a surge of electricity down the nerve), but she does more intense treatments than most. We don’t always do the electrostim of the needles afterwards, and she tends to leave me for half an hour to 45 minutes with the needles. Again, a lot depends on the practitioner.

    I had a car accident a few years ago that left me with major knee issues. Acupuncture doesn’t take away that pain completely, but it makes it a lot more manageable. It also really helps loosen up the muscles in the legs around the knees, which tend to tighten up from compensating for the impaired function. It’s really invaluable in my pain management.

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