“So they stuck you with pins??? What was that like?”
This is the question I got from my (then) 10 year old daughter when I came back from my appointment with my acupuncturist. It’s a reasonable question, and I have to say, while I was not apprehensive about my first treatment, I was curious.
I was about halfway through my 24 week chemotherapy treatment, when my stomach just shut down. The thought of any kind of food, was just plain unappealing. (I can’t even imagine the nausea feelings I had then, as I sit here sipping on my delicious sweet potato soup!)
I knew that I needed to keep up my strength if I was going to make it through another 12 weeks of this “treat”ment, and having tried all the tricks (and drugs) from the doctors, I decided to give acupuncture a try. I had nothing to lose at that point, as there are no side effects to acupuncture.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of treating a variety of conditions (usually chronic conditions vs acute ones) by stimulation of certain areas along your body. These areas, known as meridians, allow the “vital energy” to flow allowing your body to function in a healthy way.
Just like a regular doctor would assess the blood flowing through your veins, an acupuncturist would asses the flow and distribution of vital energy within the meridians and channels.
If there is restricted flow in a certain area, a very thin needle is inserted along the pathway to assist in the energy flow, much like if a stream is blocked by debris, poking a hole in it will reestablish flow. By inserting needles into the skin at varying depths, it is possible to stimulate nerves and release hormones to help that particular illness.
I figured I would give it a try as millions of people use it and it’s been around over 2000 years…..(umm……the US was using leeches to treat illness 150 years ago…nuff said)
My first visit
Being a registered nurse, I was careful about choosing an acupuncturist. (I avoided the clinics that were in the back of nail salons.) I did some asking around of my MD friends, and I went on-line to look up the centers in my area. I found a clinic that was headed up by an MD/certified acupuncturist who graduated with honors from Emory Medical School (one of the most highly respected med schools in the US) She oversaw the office which consisted of 3 other certified acupuncturists and a massage therapist. Two of the acupuncturists were also certified Chinese herbalists.
My therapist’s name was David.
I signed in as you would any doctor’s office and I took a seat in the waiting room. This was a regular waiting room…with the local radio station playing (I really expected to walk into a smoky Asian room with lots of Asians and a gong in the corner, but no)
After filling out the usual paperwork, David came in and introduced himself. He was not Asian. He was, in fact, from California and had been practicing for 15 years. He had a very calming nature about him and I felt instantly relaxed.
He asked me the usually questions, my medical history, why I was there, etc. Then he looked at my tongue and took my pulse in both arms.
He told me that there was a good chance he could help me with the loss of appetite. He also said he could help with helping my liver work better (since chemo is metabolized there) and could work on getting my energy level up (something I told him was lax)
He instructed me to be very kind to my body while it was going through the chemo treatment, and to try to eat cooked, soft, simple, foods instead of raw to help my digestion and help my body get through the next few weeks.
It made a lot of sense to me.
I undressed to my underwear and put on a cloth robe. I was made comfortable on a soft table with pillows under my head and knees. David proceeded to insert a series of needles in my arms, head, and legs, and stomach.
A bit about the needles:
- they are not sharp, but rounded on the ends.
- they are hair-like in thickness
- they are single use-that is, they are discarded after used…each person gets clean needles
- it does not hurt–in fact I didn’t feel a thing
Once the needles were inserted, the lights were dimmed, some mild soft incense was burned, and a relaxing tape of gentle music was playing. There I stayed for about 30 minutes while my channels cleared. This 30 minutes was very relaxing. I was in no pain, I was comfortable, and it was rather pleasant!
After 30 minutes, David came back and removed the needles, and I got dressed. The whole visit took about 60 minutes.
After the treatment, David asked me how I felt, and I told him great!
“How many treatments will I need before I feel like eating again?” I asked him.
“You should feel like eating by the time you get home.”
I was amazed…and a bit skeptical.
“How often do I need to come back?” I asked. I really expected him to say something like ‘three times a week for the next ten weeks’, but he said it was really up to me.
He suggested two more treatments over the next four weeks, but only if I felt I needed it. He didn’t try to sell me anything (that was my other concern) and he actually said that he does not sell products out of the office, but he can tell me what to buy if I need something and I can find the best price on my own. He also showed me the pressure point for nausea (about 2 inches up my arm on the inside of my arm in the center) and told me I could just press on this point if I felt any nausea coming on.
The cost of my initial visit was $150.00. Subsequent visits would be $100.00.
So off I went home……it took about an hour to get there.
When I got home I saw a can of vegetable soup and I made it. And I ate it. Along with two pieces of brown bread……and a little piece of chocolate.
I was amazed and thrilled! I really couldn’t believe it!
I did end up going back to help with the liver and to get a bit more energy.
I have recommended acupuncture to a lot of my friends going through chemo. I have also heard of great results for chronic back pain, and migraines. I asked about weight loss, and David said he really hasn’t seen great results for that. He also said acupuncture is not a cure-all. It is one aspect in a person’s health along with proper healthy diet, exercise, and meditation.
Some have told me it worked on me because of the power of suggestion. I don’t think so.
It has been shown to work on animals and babies….so there goes that theory. Just look at this cutie-pie getting a treatment! Does it look like it hurts?
Thanks for reading and please share your acupuncture experience!
Here is a good site for additional info on acupuncture.