On the Occasion of My FIrst Acupuncture Appointment


In the last few years, I have felt like my body is slowly falling apart–nothing serious, rather a compilation of minor complaints that are increasingly demanding more notice.  I have always carried my tension high, so my neck, shoulders, and upper back always ache.  I have tinnitus.  My mid-range hearing is unusually poor for my age, and my dry eyes are making it difficult for me to continue to wear my contacts.  All annoying, but all reasonably “overlookable”.  I have one problem, however, that has begun affecting me more obviously:  I can hardly hardly grip anything in either hand without pain.  When I use scissors, I have to regularly change hands–same with sweeping, holding a hair dryer, weeding, mixing batter, and brushing my teeth.  We had to buy an electric can opener.  I have difficulty opening nail polish bottles.  Downward Dog is painful.  I tried to help my husband pound some nails in the garage we are (he is) building, and it was an utter failure.  Switch hands, shake them out, switch hands, do hand exercises, shake them out…I have been feeling pretty useless.  Even worse, my love of knitting is threatened, for obvious reasons.

My mom had carpal tunnel surgery–I figured I was headed that way, or perhaps experiencing some early onset arthritis.  Just before I was ready to make the appointment with the “hand doctor”, I read an article about the benefits of acupuncture for this type of pain.  I canvassed my Facebook friends and received back numerous names, and I picked one:  Melissa.

I had to wait 2 weeks for my first appointment.  In the meantime, I filled out the extensive paperwork she sent, and imagined what acupuncture would really be like.  I have already been working myself toward a healthier lifestyle.  Three and a half years ago I quit smoking.  Three weeks or so ago I quit Diet Coke.  I joined a Healthy Weight Challenge with my co-workers.  I became reacquainted with my “So You Think You Can Dance”, “Bollywood” and pilates fitness DVDs, and signed up for a Vinyasa Flow Yoga class.  I have a long way to go, but every little step, right?

My appointment was today.  When I sat down with Melissa, she asked me a lot of questions to further her understanding of what I’d written in the paperwork she’d sent to me.  She looked at the side of my tongue.  She checked my pulse.

(This is why she looked at my tongue)

Then she had me remove some clothing and lie on my back on a massage table.  The table had a heating pad and soft blankets. I closed my eyes and tried to relax, and I could feel her swabbing certain points on my arms, hands, and legs with alcohol.  Next, she inserted the needles  The needles are very thin and almost hair-like.  She placed two in my head–hardly felt it.  Then she started putting them in my left arm, and while it wasn’t exactly painful, it did make me jump a bit, rather like mini stings.  Melissa worked very quickly–but I’m not going to lie–I was glad once they had all been placed.  The most unpleasant were the ones she placed in the webbing of my fingers.

The stinging feeling was fleeting, though.  After a few moments, any discomfort disappeared.    There were a couple spots where I felt this odd contraction or twinge–not a painful feeling, just a unique one.  She said I had good Qi.  I was to relax–especially my jaw and brow.  (Apparently I am tense in those areas).    She left the room and for a period of time (20 minutes?  half hour?) I tried to relax myself right into the table.  My body began to feel heavier and heavier.  My fingers felt numb–but not in a bad way.  I had an itch on my arm, but I was afraid to move because my friend Soozi warned me not to.   It went away after a few minutes.  I felt like I was floating, but also like I was being absorbed into the massage bed.  I could feel points of heat–but couldn’t tell if it originated from the heating pad or the needle insertion points.  Now, this next bit might fall in the realm of “TMI” but I could start to feel things moving around in my belly…air bubbles, if you will.  🙂

When Melissa returned, she quickly removed the needles, and said to sit up very slowly and carefully and get dressed.  Before I left, she gave me two little acupressure bandages to wear on my hands to extend the benefits of the treatment for another day.  We scheduled 3 more appointments, and I was on my way.

Wow.   A few hours later, I still have this oddly heavy, yet energized feeling.  One side effect was some “bathroom time”.  Again, TMI, I’m sure, but I wanted to share my entire experience for those interested in pursuing acupuncture for themselves.  I like the idea that each session can target a variety of ailments, instead of visiting specialists for each of my individual problems (ENT for tinnitus, etc.).  I like the idea that I am not increasing the number of medications I am taking…she recommended Chia seeds and probiotics.

Even though there are plenty of skeptics out there, I am, for the moment, sold on acupuncture…it is a little early, but the “sudden” lack of pain in my thumb is a positive sign.  I should have had her take a picture of my arm with the needles inserted.  Maybe next time!

Have you used acupuncture?  What was your experience like?