I Tried It: My Acupuncture Experience
After dealing with an ankle injury for 5 years and shelling out thousands of dollars on tests, specialists, and physical therapy, I still didn’t have a diagnosis. I couldn’t run, use an elliptical, or even walk on a treadmill without experiencing ankle pain and swelling. Of course since I was unable to exercise, I ended up gaining 15lbs. I was depressed visiting doctor after doctor who referred me to yet another doctor who couldn’t tell me anything about the source of my pain.
Fed up, I decided to try an alternative therapy… acupuncture.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that is based on the theory that energy, called chi, flows through and around your body along pathways called meridians.
How does it treat pain and illness?
Acupuncturists believe that an illness or pain occurs when something blocks or unbalances your chi. The purpose of acupuncture is to influence or unblock your chi and help it move back into balance.
How is it done?
A licensed acupuncturist puts very thin needles into your skin at certain points on your body to influence energy flow.
Initially, I was hesitant because of the time and investment of treatment. It takes on average 5 sessions to see any results. The price range for a session is anywhere from $50 to $150. Definitely not in my budget. Until… I found a local, reputable, certified acupuncturist that offered sessions for $25 each. The cost was reasonable because the acupuncture session was performed in one large room with reclining chairs allowing multiple people to be treated at the same time. I admit, it sounded odd to me at first. I always thought that getting an acupuncture treatment was like getting a massage. You know, laying half naked on a table under a sheet. However, this practice required you to wear comfortable clothing that could easily be pulled up past your knees and a t-shirt. There was no need to undress.
When I arrived at the facility I was surprised to see that it was setup in a beautiful old Victorian home. The waiting room was a bit intimidating as it was plastered with signs reminding patients to turn off their cellphones and keep quiet. I tried to tip toe to a seat, but my flip flops would not cooperate.
Before I began my treatment, I met with the acupuncturist. We went over my medical history. She asked me questioned that were way more in-depth than any doctor has asked me. She explained that it takes about 5 or more sessions to notice results and recommended I receive a treatment once a week. We then discussed where my current pain was located so she knew what areas may be blocking my chi.
She lead me to a room with about 6 lounge chairs, 4 of them occupied by people receiving treatment. The room was calming and zen-like with fans gently blowing and soft meditation music playing in the background.
I sat down in a chair and the acupuncturist felt my pulse on both wrists and asked me to stick out my tongue. She began to insert needles into various areas of my legs, knees, feet, ears, head, neck, and wrists. Depending on where the needle was inserted, there was an initial tiny pinch, but it passed almost instantly.
What I found surprising was that the acupuncturist focused on the left side of my body. My injury was on my right ankle. I had assumed the needles would be placed directly in the area of pain.
Once all of the needles were inserted the acupuncturist gave me a remote call button in case I needed her and let me relax in the chair for half an hour. When my time was up, the acupuncturist came back into the room, removed my needles and I was out the door.
Following the acupuncturist’s recommendation for three months, I had one treatment per week.
Did it relieve my pain and inflammation?
Momentarily, but I believe it was a placebo effect. What I enjoyed most about my acupuncture sessions is I was able to relax a full 30-45 minutes without any distractions aka my phone. (What can I say, I’m a typical millennial).
Would I recommend it?
If it is something you have always wanted to try, do it. Keep in mind it is not a magic cure-all for pain. In fact, studies show that there is very little evidence that acupuncture effectively treats pain.
How to find a licensed Acupuncturist
Here are a few tips on how to find a licensed acupuncturist. Although the procedure is non-invasive, you don’t want an unlicensed self-proclaimed professional sticking needles in you!