On Pins and Needles

While I don’t think most people are in love with needles, I’m particularly adverse to them. When I get blood drawn, I look away. I squeeze my eyes shut when they show any kind of shots on TV. Once, when I was in high school and I had to get a tetanus booster, I was in the PEDIATRIC waiting room having a panic attack while a 5 year old girl played with a puzzle, got her shot, and left without crying. I can’t say the same about myself.

So I was admittedly a bit nervous when I had my first acupuncture appointment last night. My regular doctor recommended a 6 month stint of acupuncture to regulate some hormone imbalances that have thus far been unsolvable by Western medicine. I’m glad I found a doctor that believes in complementary alternative medicine and the role it can play in healing.

San Francisco Community Acupuncture is right in my neighborhood, and I knew I had to make it easy for myself to get there because I have to go weekly. The clinic operates with a sliding scale, so you pay whatever you can between $25 and $45 per visit. They cut costs by having all the patients get treated in one room, rather than private rooms. The room has four recliners and they tip you back, stick you up with needles, put a blanket on you and you nap for about a half an hour. You don’t even notice the other people until they get up to leave, and even then, everyone is very respectful.

The needles are so tiny – more like pins – and my acupuncturist said about ten of them could fit inside a regular hypodermic needle. That’s not to say I didn’t feel them going in. Some of them pinched going in more than others, but none of them continued to hurt after insertion.

The internet and my acupuncturist warned me that some areas might feel “achy” with the needles, and I definitely felt that in my forehead. It’s a particular type of pain that’s not unbearable or sharp or intense, but at no point did I feel like I needed the needle taken out. I couldn’t even feel the rest.

I lay there for a half an hour, becoming more and more relaxed as the minutes passed. Everyone needs a medically sanctioned nap. I left the clinic in a somewhat dreamy state; my acupuncturist said some people feel like their floating, and I can see what she meant. I felt slower and calmer and heavier.

Not sure if it’s residual, but I’m still feeling a bit lethargic today; maybe I just didn’t get enough sleep. After next week’s appointment I’ll be able to say more definitively if it’s a side effect of the acupuncture. I don’t have any bruising, bleeding, or anything else that can sometimes happen. In fact, I can’t even tell where the needles went in!

Overall, I have to say I think I liked it better than a massage. Don’t get me wrong, I love massages but they can sometimes be painful and because the muscles in my back are so screwy, I often leave in more pain than I came in with. I once had a physical therapist recommend AGAINST massages because it seemed to trigger muscle spasms.

In contrast, my acupuncture appointment was like being in a cocoon for a half hour; I felt safe and warm. Even if it doesn’t fix my hormone imbalance, although I’m hoping it does, I might continue to go somewhat regularly just for the relaxation benefits!

Has anyone else out there tried acupuncture? Thoughts and reactions? 

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