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My First Acupuncture Experience

Posted Jun 04 2012 6:00am

Good morning!

How was your weekend? I hope you had a great one. Mine was rather was lovely and relaxing – a little cooking here, a little magazine reading there, a little David’s Tea with one of my besties and plenty of R&R. We’ve been getting a heck of a lot of rain here lately, so I certainly didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything as I stayed cozied up under my covers yesterday morning! Breakfasting is currently underway…

A little Tropicalia to start the day! It’s a herbal tea with coconut, apple, pineapple, and rose petals. Mmmmmm….

‘Tis a fruity morning indeed! Is anyone else going through watermelon and berries like crazy? I can’t get enough of them, watermelon in particular. Our garbage bags have been extra-heavy this week because they’re FULL of watermelon rinds!

Last week during my second appointment for my ankle/foot problem , I asked my physio about acupuncture. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about their experiences with alternative medicine methods, and acupuncture is something I’ve been curious about for a while. One of the lovely ladies that comes to my spin classes recommended looking into it because she had fantastic results when she injured her foot earlier this year. Desperate to make at least some form of progress in my recovery, that’s exactly what I did.

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Have you ever wondered what acupuncture is all about? I’m definitely not an expert, but this is what I’ve learned.

First things first: What is it?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of Chinese medicine. How old? Over 5000 years! It involves stimulating various points in the body with very thin needles by placing them into the skin, typically by hand. Sometimes the needles are electrically stimulated depending on the needs of the patient. Although there are definitely skeptics out there that think acupuncture isn’t effective at all, many people have experienced pain relief and improvements in mood, energy, and bodily function after a course of treatment. The problem is that there are very few studies that are large enough to produce evidence that acupuncture is effective, so many Western physicians are still doubtful.

Why did I decide to try it?

Three words: Because I’m desperate!!! After 2 weeks of foot problems, I still wasn’t feeling any improvements. By mid-week last week, as I lay on my bed with my foot strapped to an ice pack, I decided I was willing to to anything and everything to try and fix my situation. I’d also read that acupuncture has been very effective as a combination treatment for people suffering from sports/stress related injuries. In case you’re wondering, people with back pain, arthritis, digestive disorders, chronic fatigue, and headaches have also seen good results.

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How is it done?

Generally, after an acupuncturist assesses a patient’s needs, medical condition, etc, treatments start. From what I’ve been told, it works in doses, so several sessions are needed to clear up problems. Having said that, I’ve spoken to some people who felt pain relieve almost instantly after treatment. According to my physio, some  experience rapid results whereas others don’t respond as quickly.

Some acupuncturists will stick up to about 12 needles into their patients, depending on their condition. I received only 3 in my first round – one in the upper front part of my shin, another on the top of my foot, and another directly in the area that has been super painful lately – the outer right edge of my right heel. I sat up with my legs extended on the treatment bed the whole time, and the three needles were inserted into the areas mentioned above. They stayed there for about 15 minutes. Did it hurt? I’ll get to that in a minute. ;)

How exactly does acupuncture work?

In Chinese medicine, it is believed that healthy people have an optimal balance of yin and yang of chi. You’re probably wondering, “Yin? Yang? Chi? What??” Here’s a quick explanation of each:

Yin and yang -These are opposites. Yin is associated with words like dark, hidden, feminine, water, soft, cold, wet, passive, and night. By contrast, yang is associated with light, heat, fire, masculine, aggressive, dry, hard, and day. Yin and yang balance each other, and fit together as a whole. Yes, just like those little doodles you probably used to scribble all over your notebooks when you were in school. I know I sure did. They were even on my pogs . But had you asked if I knew what they meant, I wouldn’t have had a clue.

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Chi – Also known as ‘qi‘ in Chinese or ‘prana‘ in India, chi is the life force, or the energy that exists in everything around us and inside us. Within our bodies, chi flows along lots of little pathways, or meridians.

There are about 350 acupuncture points in the body which can be used to access the energy that flows along them. In Chinese medicine, people that are ill are believed to have an imbalance somewhere along these pathways. The theory is that if the acupuncture needles are positioned in just the right places, energy flows can be brought back into balance, and hence, return the person to health. In Western medicine, acupuncturists use the points as places through which to stimulate nerves, tissues and muscles. The stimulation helps increase bloodflow to the affected areas, which over time, encourages healing.

 

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So how big are those needles?

Not big at all. I was surprised to see that the ones that went into my leg and foot were only about 3cm long. They can range from about 1-7cm, and they’re super thin and flexible. The needles also don’t damage the surface of the skin – they just slide through the skin and rarely cause any bleeding underneath (which can happen with your typical injection needle).

Is it painful?

Speaking from my own experience so far, not really. The needles are really thin and bendy, and apparently about 10 acupuncture needle tips cover the same surface area as the kind of needle that you’d receive an injection with. The physio told me that I might feel a little uncomfortable throughout the 15-20 minutes that the needles were stuck in, but it shouldn’t feel sharp and painful. It should me more like a little tingle or very subtle ache. Apparently moving around can cause things to get painful, so I sat still for the treatment and became engrossed in the latest issue of Style & Home. Might as well multitask, right?

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Did I feel any better afterwards?

Coincidentally, the day I had my acupuncture treatment done, my foot wasn’t really that sore. The most frustrating part of all of this is that I can do the exact same activities two days in a row, wake up one morning feeling reasonably ok and the next morning unable to walk without a significant limp. Although I didn’t notice any immediate improvements, I’m definitely going to give this a chance. My next appointment is tomorrow, and until then, it’s ice, ice baby!

So tell me…

  • Have you ever tried acupuncture? What made you decide to try it and what were your results like?
  • If you haven’t experienced acupuncture yet, would you ever consider it as a method of treatment?
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