Friday, January 20, 2012

Acupuncture - My Experience

Thanks to for the image
I am very lucky to have a general practitioner who is supportive of alternative medicine.  She encouraged me to try acupuncture for my never ending allergies and chronic sinusitis after years of visiting allergists didn't resolve the issue.  Since I deal with other medical issues, this was a good all over treatment for me.  I have mentioned this a few times to friends and readers so I wanted to write about it but not until I had gone further into my treatment.  I hope this is informative and helps you understand things a bit more.  I am not an expert, just a patient talking about my experience.

I did some research and found the website for a local acupuncturist whose office very close to my workplace.  It is nice because I am stop by on my way to or from work or go as my lunch break.  I went in first for a free evaluation in late August.  She asked me about any symptoms I was hoping to get treated and evaluated me.  She then told me how she would go about treatment for my concerns.  My top 3 concerns I wanted treated were the allergies & chronic sinusitis, anxiety & depression, and digestive issues.  Acupuncturists can usually diagnose you from appearance as well as your pulse.  She took my pulse on one side (my wrist) and asked how I sleep.  I told her I sleep fine because I always just thought I was a night person.  Then I said, well I do get wired at night and go to bed late.  She said she could tell from my pulse.  Then on my other side, she asked if I get knee pain which I do.  She said for my issues and what she can tell about me that she would do a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment.  She told me that I had a Spleen and Lung deficiency and asked if I wanted to proceed with treatments.  I decided to go for it since I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

She said to start I would need weekly acupuncture treatments and when I came in for my first appointment she would have info for me and know which herbs she wanted me to take.  I started the next week.  I will start by saying that I am not a needle person.  I nearly had a breakdown the first time I had to have a blood test, though I do much better with them now as long as I don't look.  Acupuncture needles are very different.  They don't hurt and they aren't very big.  They do not necessarily feel good or bad either.  It depends on how the qi, or energy, is in that area. Sometimes the needles feel like a zap of energy, sometimes they give me an achy sensation, sometimes they feel tingly, sometimes I get a quick woosh of energy and then don't feel much.  The most important thing is to keep breathing while they are inserted, it really helps. 

When I go in for an appointment, I need to wear something comfy that I can handle laying there for some time in.  My legs up to my knees need to be easily accessed as well as my forearms and feet.  Most of the time, she will ask how I am and if anything is bothering me, she will add it to my treatment.  One time I had a very upset tummy so she treated me for that and other times she adds my low back pain and hip pain to the mix.

Normally, my treatment involves needles inserted at the base of my skull, the needles are flexible so I can lay on them without them going in further or hurting.  Then she puts some on other points of my head, sometimes I barely know where they are.  Some needles are inserted on my face, especially for sinus pressure, usually around the cheekbone, sides of my nose and then the spot between my eyebrows.  Needles are also placed in my hand and forearm.  Needles are placed on my knee, along my shins and my feet and ankles. Needles are also placed in my ears and if my tummy is upset, they are placed in my belly.  I was very nervous when they were placed in my belly but I have to admit, I barely felt those.
Picture of one of the treatment rooms at my acupuncturist's office, Phoenix Rising in Saratoga Springs NY

Once the needles are placed, she makes sure I am comfortable and puts on some relaxation music.  She turns down the lights and leaves me for about 30-45 minutes.  I usually close my eyes and try to relax.  Sometimes I do a lot of thinking and sometimes I meditate and zone out.  When she comes back and removes the needles, it doesn't hurt at all.  Once in a while you might get a little dot of blood or bruising.  She told me that is actually a good thing because it means the flow was really opened up there.

I also take Chinese herbs daily that I get from my acupuncturist.  I miss a day here and there but they really do seem to be helping.  I take 3 of each at least once per day.  Once is particularly to help with all my phlegmy grossness and the other is to help with my immune system.

After 6-8 weeks, my treatment started to spread out to every 2 weeks and now I am going monthly. She told me that some people are cured and some need regular maintenance appointments.  Since my health issues were very involved and things I have had for a very long time, I needed more intensive treatment at first.

Changes I have noticed since treatment: 

Immediately after treatment, I notice that I am totally relaxed.  I feel no sense of anxiety or depression.  When treated for tummy trouble it felt completely better when I left.  My sinuses often feel more open and I just feel relaxed and happy.  I tend to sleep really well after treatment (especially since she treats me for sleep issues). Whens he treats my low back and hip pain, it helps relief some of the tension back there.  The pain isn't quite gone but it is lessened.

Over the long term I notice a lot of changes and so does my acupuncturist.  She says my pulse is improving and is much stronger than when I first came in and my skin looks brighter and more alive and healthy. She asks if I have been sick, had any infections, asthma attacks, etc and I haven't.
I have not had a cold, infection, any sort of bug or even an asthma attack since I started treatment.  I do get out of breath when I workout but I am pretty sure that is more from being out of shape and I tend to catch my breath faster than I used to.  I feel happier, more balanced and like I have more energy.  My digestive issues are getting more under control, not perfect because it also has to do with my diet and stress levels, but definitely much better.  I don't feel exhausted, depressed and like laying around anymore.  My sinuses are less congested, though I still have post nasal drip and some inflammation, there is definite improvement.

I think I am on the road to recovery.  This along with slowly making changes to my diet seem to help.  My acupuncturist gave me information on my deficiencies and suggested 2 books for me to read.  One was Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  The other one was Healing with Whole Foods. I ordered both and took a lot of notes.  I have come to realize that I eat way too much processed packaged food.  I now bake my own bread and buy natural meats that say they are whole range, grass fed & steroid and antibiotic free. I can sense a change in the quality of the food I eat. I eat a lot more fish, which is something I enjoy so this wasn't a hard change to make.  If I buy packaged snacks, they are organic and have ingredient lists with a lot more words I actually understand and can pronounce. 

For my deficiency diagnosis, I need to eat more drying and warming foods.  You can research the types of foods these are online or in books quite easily.  It is funny because I did a lot of reading on Ayurveda recently and that makes the same suggestions for my dosha type.  I guess I really do need to eat more drying and warming foods.

I still have a lot of work to do on my health but my mission is to get myself the healthiest I have ever been.  I am hoping to get my weight under control.  I want to get my back and hip injury healed and recovered.  I am currently going through Physical Therapy and Yoga for that.  I am trying to be more active in general but am doing low impact things that will not bother my injury.  I want to keep my moods stable and get my digestion back in check.  It will take a lot of work but I know I can get there.  There is no one answer that works for everyone.  I just need to find what is right for me and keep it as my lifestyle.

If you would like more info about what can be treated with acupuncture, my acupuncturist has some good info on her website.  You can read more here: Phoenix Rising Acupuncture & Herbal Clinic 

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1 comment:

  1. I've had one acupuncture needle inserted - the feeling I got from it (not pain, but something) was just too strong for me to deal with. But I've had acupressure and related massage treatments, that I do find helpful, and I should probably go more often! It's interesting to read about your experiences after quite a sustained programme of treatment :)


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