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My Experience with Acupuncture

Posted Jul 09 2011 7:38am

FINALLY! I had an amazing night’s sleep last night and I feel fantastic. It’s Saturday. Life is good.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I tried acupuncture for the first time last weekend. I wanted to “report” on my experience much sooner than now, but I realized I needed to give it a few days to see how my body completely reacted.

Last month, I placed at the King of Prussia 10-Miler (first trophy!) and I also won a gift certificate for a complimentary acupuncture session. I was psyched. I had always wanted to try acupuncture, but it was like one of those things I always wanted but would never actually buy for myself. (Other examples of this include cowgirl boots, and Rosetta Stone.)

I started reading up about the procedure and what to expect. My little pamphlet explains, “Acupuncture is the traditional practice of inserting fine needles into the body at specific points shown to be effective in the treatment of various health problems… the needles regulate the body’s natural energy, which is referred to as Qi (pronounced “chee”). Health is seen as a harmonious and balanced flow of Qi, when this flow is disrupted, illness occurs… the needles work to rebalance the energy and build energy to relieve symptoms and promote health and well being.” I still don’t really understand the whole bit, but it sounds great and I wanted to have a balanced Qi, too! Apparently, acupuncture may treat everything from migraines and stress to ADD, infertility, indigestion, allergies, and so on and so on. I had no idea. After speaking with the acupuncturist, she informed me that its similar to a massage – they’ll treat you “whole body” but would apply added focus to a certain area/ailment upon request.  

So when I arrived for my appointment last weekend, I was excited and a little anxious. I had to fill out about 10 pages of forms, mostly medical history, current medications, allergies, and a couple disclaimers. While sitting in the waiting room, I snagged about 20 brochures about potential acupuncture treatments to read up on:

  The acupuncturist brought me into the acupuncture room, which was just like a massage room. We chatted for about 10 minutes (she is a distance runner too!) I mentioned that although I didn’t have any specific ailments at the time, I do have problems with TMJ, as I clench my jaw while I sleep at night. It hadn’t been affecting me too much over the past 6 months, but every once in awhile if I’m going through a stressful period, I’ll start clenching again which leads to headaches, broken teeth, and sleepless nights. I also hadn’t been wearing my g-l-a-m-o-r-o-u-s night guard in months because it wasn’t too much of a problem. And, said nightguard is annoying and so not sexy.

So, while lying on my back, she inserted about 20+/- sterilized needles throughout my body. It feels like a teenie prick going in, but they truly do not hurt at all. I know I had one in between my eyes, on either side of my jaw, and I think I had some in my ears? And they were on my hands and all over my feet, but I can’t be sure because I was so afraid to move to check ‘em out! So, then she dimmed the lights, pressed play on some “relaxing spa mix,” and left the room for about 30 minutes. And there I was. All alone. Cannot move for fear that a needle will gash into my side. After the first minute of almost-claustrophobic-freak-out, something delightful started to happen. Since I was so still, I fell into complete relaxation. Throughout those 30 minutes, I began to become “aware” of where all the needles were. Again, it doesn’t hurt, but feels like blood is flowing to the needle locations. I remember being very aware that they were in my jaw and it kind of felt soothing. And then I think I fell asleep.

The acupuncturist came back, removed all the needles, and had me flip into my front. She inserted a bunch of needles onto my back, included the back of my neck, a bunch on my lower back (I think?), and on my feet. Same deal for another 15 minutes or so. Fell asleep again.

And that was it – she explained that I would probably not feel too much of an effect, since it was just one treatment, but would likely feel relaxed for a few hours. And I was on my way.

That day I felt fine. Joe and I enjoyed take-out chipotle (awesome) and a glass of chardonnay on the back deck. I suddenly started getting a massive headache, and had to go to bed by 9:30. I figured maybe I was dehydrated and the glass of wine caused the headache. The next morning (Sunday) I woke up feeling fine and busted out a hilly 10-miler . The rest of the day I felt fine at our annual 3rd of July BBQ. Monday we headed back into Philly, and that evening, the headache came back. And then came Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I had a constant headache for 3 days straight, and my jaw was killing me. It felt like it was swollen, and I was clenching worse than ever. WTF? I tried sleeping with my night guard again, but realized it no longer fit because I recently got a new crown on a back molar (due to teeth breakage, due to clenching). So I bought an over-the-counter one from CVS for the time being. On Thursday, I started on a 600mg dosage of ibuprofen every 5 hours to see if it would help. Friday morning I woke up and the headache was slightly better. Finally, last night, I popped 2 Advil PM’s, crawled into bed at 9 PM (yes – Friday night baby) and popped in my new nightguard. Finally slept beautifully. I woke up this morning at 6 feeling fantastic and ready to finally bust out this blog post.

Earlier this week mid-headache, I emailed the acupuncturist to explain my symptoms and concern. She explained that, although rare, “people can have an exacerbation of symptoms prior to feeling better, but usually it is a flare up following the treatment that lasts for a day or so, then an improvement. Sometimes with energy work, the first time can be overwhelming for some people and their bodies react TOO much to the treatments.” This is also similar to what I read during my frantic google searches on acupuncture side effects.

So. Headaches are gone, thank goodness. So maybe I just “reacted too much” to the treatment? I should mention that I truly went into the experience with an open mind – and probably was more on the side of wanting to like it, because I love the idea of acupuncture. However, while emailing back and forth with the acupuncturist, she kept mentioning, “during your next visit…” etc. Hmm. Probably not going back for acupuncture anytime soon. I’m definitely not writing it off entirely, and will likely try it again later down the road. But definitely not anytime soon. If anyone has any positive or negative experiences with acupuncture, I would love to hear about it!!

This experience got me to thinking about New Year’s resolutions, as my appointment was on July 2nd. My New Year’s resolution this year was to “relax more.” I feel like I have definitely improved in this area and have made some life changes that was allowed me to fit more time in for relaxation. I have to say, I loved acupuncture for this. I was so completely relaxed while on that table, and that reason alone would motivate me to go back. But I also decided to re-evaluate my resolutions, and initiate some “Mid-Year Resolutions.” Case in point: Nightguard. I really should be wearing it, so decided to start wearing this bad boy again:


Sorry, Joe.

My other Mid-Year Resolution is to finally kick diet soda. I LOVE diet ginger ale. It is my favorite mid-day treat. But it seems that every single day I read an article about how bad diet soda and artificial sweeteners are for you. So I am proud to say I went through my first week of no diet soda (high-five!) And no, I do not think the headaches were a result of soda withdrawal, as all the soda I used to drink was caffeine free.

But I found this nifty trick which is my new favorite diet soda alternative: Soda water with a splash of natural juice – so yum.

Anyways, I apologize for the long-winded post. Is anyone reading this?

I’m off for a nice, long run to be followed by some much needed beach time with Joe!

What are your Mid-Year Resolutions? Do you have any positive/negative experiences with acupuncture?

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