Adventures in Acupuncture

Acupuncture. It’s one of those alternative treatments I hadn’t tried before. I’ve tried chiropractic, natural herbs and several other therapies with various degrees of success, but the thought of needles scared me enough I had not tried acupuncture, until today.

I’ve been having a headache since January of this year, five plus months as of now. My doctors had done tons of tests, I had done some changes that normal would help, but no luck. First we thought it was caused by my sinuses, which was a good thought since I’ve had three sinus surgeries and numerous issues with them over the years, including chronic sinus headaches. After CT scans, MRI’s, a heavy duty round of antibiotics and prednisone, they declared my sinuses were free of inflammation and infection. Headache didn’t get the memo and was still here.

Back to my regular doctor to figure out what to do next. After looking at my latest labs she recommended I see a neurologist, but warned it can take months to get into one. She recommended a local acupuncture doctor, someone she said that several of her patients had used with success to treat headaches where they couldn’t find an obvious cause. She asked me to think about trying that while I waited to see a neurologist, maybe it would help.

I went over to the acupuncturists office, a Dr. H. Wu, met her and decided to give it a try earlier in the week. Today was my appointment. So for all of you who haven’t tried it and are curious, I thought I’d describe my first appointment. Now when I made the appointment, she gave me this multiple page questionnaire to fill out about my health history and current treatments I’ve tried. I had to add a few pages of my own as I have too many health issues now and in my past to list on the form she gave me. Such is my life.

I showed up for the appointment in t-shirt and shorts, ¬†as I was told to dress comfortably. I brought the questionnaire with me, along with copies of my last two labs for her to look at. Dr. Hu is the lovely little Chinese woman, 5 foot nothing, and very nice. She took me in the exam room, and proceeded to ask me a ton of questions about my headaches, about other health issues, and other things like what type of personality I was. Then she went over where the pain was for my head and what I’d tried that worked, what didn’t work so far. We spent a good 30 to 40 minutes on that part of the visit.

Then she had me take off my socks and shoes. Afterwards, she had me first sit on the table, and she inserted a couple of needles into the back of my head to start. I felt a little sting when they went in, then it faded quickly to just an odd tingly sort of sensation. She then put two needles on the sides of my head, and one in my temples on each side. Then she helped me lay down so I wasn’t driving the needles into my brain I’m guessing. If that job was up to me alone, I’m sure I’d have this tiny little needle the size of a hair stabbing into my brain thru my skull somehow. I’m just that talented. ūüôā

After I was comfortably laying down on my back, with a little support under my  knees, she started putting needles elsewhere. One on each hand on the outside edge, one below each wrist. Then one on the top edge of each foot (near the outside) and one near my ankles. When she had them all in, she added one to the very top of my head. She then hooked up a couple of the needles on my head to this little electricity stimulator and turned it on. While the needles were going in elsewhere I felt a little pinch for a second, then again a weird tingly sort of sensation. I also felt when I moved my hand, a sensation from where the needle was to the tips of my fingers, not unpleasant. At this point she said she was leaving me for 30 minutes.

I laid there listening to the tick of the clock (must ask next time if I can bring music with me!), and she checked up on me every ten minutes or so. After twenty minutes she took the electrical stimulator off and let me sit there with the needles the last twenty minutes. So I sat there, earworms running thru my head, and for some reason at random times the Jeopardy theme song. Trying not to move much, ¬†as it was such a weird feeling to do so, plus also being slightly paranoid that somehow I’d move the wrong way and impale myself on hairlike sized needles in my brain. Finally the 30 minutes was up and she removed the needles, I barely felt anything with them coming out.

Now, here’s the really weird part. While I was laying there, my brain decided to imagine the headache as this thick tarry stuff around my head. Why I have no idea. By the end of the treatment, my brain decided that it was thinner oily stuff around my head. What ¬†that means I’m not entirely sure. I told the doctor and she said the pain was concentrated around a small around on both sides of my head and the needles were helping to spread it out and thin the pain, so maybe that is why.

Once the needles were out, she had me sit up. Then asked me where it hurt the worst this time. I pointed to the area, and she stabbed me once on each side of the head with another acupuncture needle, where it hurt the most still. You would think this would be counterproductive, but it actually felt like it was relieving pressure there. She left them in about a minute each side, and then removed them. Then we were done. I got my socks and shoes back on, went and got some water from the water cooler in the office, and talked to her about what she recommended on treatment. She said with all the health issues, including the Graves’ disease, I would need to come a couple of times a week for a couple of weeks and then we could space it out more.

End result, it was an interesting experience. My headache now (an hour after) feels a bit better after the first session, though immediately after it was slightly worse. I’m told with chronic conditions it can feel slightly worse for the first session or two. Considering that chiropractic was the same way, I felt slightly worse immediately after, then an hour or two later felt a LOT better, this doesn’t concern me much. I’m going to go another time or two and see how I feel. If nothing else, this is natural, no drugs and at this point about a dozen people I know swear by this, so I’ll give it a good try and see it if helps me. I’ll keep you all posted after I’ve had a few sessions on how it’s helping, if it helps.

If you look for an acupuncturist, make sure they are licensed by your state board, look for referrals from others who have been to this person. Their exam room should be clean and they should be using disposable, sterile acupuncture needles. If the needles hurt you, they should be willing to adjust them immediately, you should not be in pain. I felt nothing after the first little poke personally, and many don’t even feel that much.

You can follow Britney on Twitter  @BttrflyBritney  or catch her on http://www.WarriorButterflies.com or ButterflyNationproject.org

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Prednisone and the Thyroid

There is a good chance that at some point you may be put on Prednisone for something. If you also have asthma or lung issues the chance goes up even further. Drugs.com defines Prednisone as ” a corticosteroid. It prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation. It also suppresses the immune system.¬†Prednisone is used as an anti-inflammatory or an immunosuppressant medication. Prednisone treats many different conditions such as allergic disorders, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, or breathing disorders.”

A lot of people who have thyroid conditions also have autoimmune issues that go along with the thyroid¬†such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease. As a lot of you know, once you get one autoimmune disease, it’s easier to acquire other autoimmune diseases, like asthma, arthritis, etc. and a key ingredient in a lot of autoimmune diseases is inflammation. Prednisone is a great drug for helping with the inflammatory¬†conditions, for someone with asthma especially, it can be a life saver, ¬†in helping restore clear breathing back to the lungs, or reducing inflammation. It can also help heal inflammation which can help many injuries heal faster. ¬†Since it¬†does¬†suppresses your immune system to some degree, you need to keep ¬†that also in mind while on the medication. You will need to avoid people with contagious diseases even more than normal to avoid becoming ill. ¬†This is usually mentioned by most doctors when they prescribe prednisone. What they do not always mention, or even know to mention is how it will affect your thyroid levels and other health.

First you have the problem of the prednisone itself. The side effects of prednisone are long and lengthy. A lot of the side effects mimic hyperthyroidism, such as ¬†increased appetite, sleep issues, irritability, anxiety, blood pressure rising and more. This can make you feel like all the sudden your body is going into over drive. The worst part is that sometimes these side effects can last days or even weeks in your system after you stop taking prednisone. Along with the side effects, prednisone being a corticosteroid can make conversion of T4 to T3 (the form of thyroid hormone that your body more readily can use) much more difficult and even suppress it when you are on high enough amounts. This will actually send your thyroid levels DOWN towards more hypo. A good endocrinologist will know that testing your thyroid levels too soon after or during a round of prednisone will drastically affect your numbers. This will ALSO make you feel off. What you can end up with, is the prednisone making you feel like your system is in over drive, but actually driving down your available thyroid hormone that your body can use. My own endocrinologist will generally test me about 4 weeks after I finish a round of prednisone to see where my lab tests actually end up, as they tend to bounce back after I’ve been off the medicine for a few weeks.

Besides the thyroid levels, prednisone can also change your adrenal tests as one of the main components of your adrenals is cortisol, related to prednisone. So if you have labs to test adrenals, you may also want to wait a few weeks after you finish prednisone to get a more accurate result and separate out what your body is doing versus what the prednisone has affected. The Mayo Clinic talks about how prednisone works with your adrenals as well. One of the things prednisone is also used to treat is Addison’s disease, which happens when your adrenal glands do not produce enough steroids on their own. The body is a wonderful thing and has such a delicate balancing act to keep itself running well. Yes, there are definite risks and disadvantages of taking prednisone when you have thyroid disease, but you should also weigh the benefits of this therapy if your doctor has prescribed it. Myself, I have asthma as well as thyroid disease, and there have been many times that this has been the only thing that has gotten me back to breathing easier again. Each time my doctor suggestions prednisone in my life, I have to see if anything else will help, if not, it is a wonderful thing, even with the side effects to be able to breathe and to have less inflammation.

Obviously this is just a general overview and in no way everything you need to know about taking prednisone while having thyroid disease, but hopefully this will give you a good start on what to ask your doctor and what to keep in mind as you are on this therapy. I wish you the best of health!

 

Addition: October 2015

Another thing to keep in mind on prednisone, is that if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, it can cause your blood sugars to rise while on steroids of any kind. So if you go to your doctor and your blood sugars have rising and nothing has changed but prednisone being added, that is most likely your answer.

 

Follow Britney on twitter @BttrflyBritney, or check her out on her pages on http://www.WarriorButterflies.com or as main blogger on http://www.butterflynationproject.org

Sources:
http://www.drugs.com http://www.drugs.com/sfx/prednisone-side-effects.html and http://www.drugs.com/prednisone.html

Mayo Clinic website http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/basics/definition/con-20021340