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. 🙂

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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