Needles and Pins

This could be a tribute to the late great Joey Ramone, but it’s not. I went for acupuncture today! My first time. Read all about it.

Background: In high school, I injured some of the nerves in my neck at track practice. Every once and a while I’ll sleep funny or bend the wrong way and I’ll hurt for a day or so. I woke up Tuesday morning with a stiff neck, and it’s gotten progressively worse all week, to the point where I’ve been doing nothing other than lying flat on my back on the floor, cuz that’s the only time it doesn’t hurt incredibly.

So I decided to give acupuncture a try. virtee found a place nearby that would take me as an “emergency” patient, and got me an appointment. I had to fill out some paperwork and an informed consent form, then the doctor did some poking about to decide where to stick me. She had me lay face down on a massage table, arms by my sides.

Then came the needles. I honestly didn’t notice them go in. She would kind of tap the plunger thingy, and I had to tell her when I felt a slight pressure. No pain whatsoever–the needles are so fine that they didn’t even sting or pinch when they went in. All together, I had 2 needles behind each ear, one on each shoulder blade, one on either side of my spine near mid-back (my “liver point”, because I was having some visual side effects from the neck pain), one in the side of each hand, and two in each ankle (the ankle has some corresponding points in the neck, from what I was told).

The doctor then attached wires to the needles on my back, hands, and neck, and turned on a mild current. It felt a bit weird, like a buzzing, tingling sensation. Still no pain. I lay like that for 30 minutes, then it was done. She took a look at my tongue, and gave me some herbs to take for the pain in my neck (I’d tell you what they were, but I’m comfy here, and don’t want to get up to find them).

It was an… interesting experience. Unfortunatly, I’m very prone to panic attacks, especially in situations where I feel like I’m not in control. I was laying face down and had my arms by my sides, so that made me feel kind of nervous. I also dislike needles. So as long as I didn’t think about the fact that I had needles sticking out of me, I was ok. When I’d think about it, I’d get very panicky. My heart rate was through the roof, and I probably negated most of the therapy cuz I was so tense!

So did it work? I’m not sure yet. I’m not in constant pain anymore, that is, I can sit and do things without it hurting. If I try to move my neck, it hurts. It felt great when I was lying on the table having the therapy done, and right now, I do feel a lot more relaxed. The doctor told me that one of two things generally happen after this kind of treatment: the pain gets worse for a while, then gets better on it’s own, or the pain goes away immediately after, and comes back for a while, then goes away. I think I’m in the latter category–it still hurts, but not as badly. I have to go back in again on Wednesday for a follow-up and she’ll show me some stretching exercises and things like that to do. Also, she said now that she’s aware of my tendency to panic, she can make it much more comfortable for me. I must say, the doctor did a wonderful job of keeping me calm and explaining things to me–I had to tell her at one point “Please don’t keep telling me when the needles are going in!” because it made me freak out… but she put me at ease.

Right now I feel kind of woozy, because I was breathing so shallowly and was so tense during it all, but I do feel more relaxed and am not in nearly as much pain. I’ll let you all know my overall impression when I go back for a follow up on Wednesday.

Anyone else got any acupuncture tips to share with me so next time I don’t freak out?

A female friend of mine has gone in for acupuncture many times, because someone else recommended it to her for…well, her palms sweat a LOT. You can’t hold this girl’s hand without getting mighty wet. I’m skeptical, but she claims it’s helped. Beyond that, I have no personal experience with acupuncture.

I went once and found the experience relatively relaxing and interesting. At the time I was having stomach problems and heard acupuncture could help. It did but only temporarily. You apparently need to repeat.

I also play drums and was playing quite a bit at the time. My wrist was hurting and swollen from something I did at work. This made it difficult to play. I didnt intended to address this problem at the acupuncturist but she asked about it. She made a herbal mixture for me and some “medicine” which I never asked her for. The herbal mixture literally smelled like poop. She slapped it on my wrist then put an ace bandage on it. The smell was horrible! She said to wear it for a week! I said I work in a resteraunt and hardly think that patrons would find it appetizing to have a waiter with “poop arm”. I took off the herbal lump of crap.

Anyway she charged me about $200 for the acupuncture, herbal poop, and quack medicine thereby souring my acupuncture experience. Shame.

Well, I must say. I slept like a log last night, and woke up feeling about 1000% better than I did yesterday. The pain is still there, but it’s not constant, like it has been since Wednesday. My shoulders feel much more relaxed, and I can sit and move around without pain!

The herbal supplements I’m on are shao yao gan cao tang, for muscle complaints. I’m psyched, because after doing some reasearch, these herbs are also used for “menstrual complaints”. I’ve been on the Pill for cramps since I was 18, and it doesn’t really help. So maybe we’re on to something here.

And, when I told my parents that I’d gone for acupuncture, they didn’t laugh! They also were amazed that it’s covered by my health insurance plan. Welcome to the West Coast!