Bucket List : Acupuncture
I crossed another item off my bucket list. Acupuncture. Sometimes I talk with others about the items on my list. When I mentioned this one it turned out I was’t the only one who wanted to give it a try.
I have several friends that blazed the trail for me swearing by it in different degrees. Connie is so totally into it she swears it’s the only way to go. Sharon combines acupuncture treatment with her primary medical care. And my friend Anges’ husband is a Chinese trained acupuncturist. They now live in Colorado so no luck for me getting regular appointments with him. But he is the person that first coached me about acupuncturist training.
I have peripheral neuropathy in my legs and feet due to years I spent daily bent sideways working as a dental hygienist. I also have several “old-age” symptoms I would like to cure or improve. It stands to reason the healing would take time as they’re chronic conditions with years in the making.
Being from Omaha, NE. I feel we are lucky now to have two acupuncturists who learned and trained many years in China. Dr. Hu and Dr. Xu. They are both certified by the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) a US non-profit organization aiming to “establish, assess, and promote recognized standards of competence and safety in acupuncture and Oriental medicine for the protection and benefit of the public.”
The treatment room looks just like any room at a massage clinic. Dim lights, high client table, soft music, cozy-warm room. Relaxing ambiance.
But you may ask, how does acupuncture feel? Is it really pain free? The answer is yes. Most pokes are anyway or almost so.
Now I’ve had over ten treatments with uncountable needle pricks and only three or so were beyond annoying. Not bad considering how many needles I’ve received. There’s no bleeding either. That’s important for me because I’m on a blood thinning medication.
I’ll admit I was nervous at my first appointment. After the consultation part of the appointment the doctor began quickly, gently tapping in the needles. Some of the needles I barely felt, some truly felt like a tiny pinch. In a bit all the needles were in. The doctor left the room telling me she would be back in 30 minutes and giving me a bell to ring should I need assistance. As I laid there in the dimly lit room I felt relaxed and at times close to falling asleep.
During the treatment I do experience other interesting things. I’m not sure if this is common, or due to my body mindfulness from two years of tai chi.
The first is as I relax with the needles in place I am aware of about half of the needles in me. I feel them individually lightly resting on me and even gently beneath the skin. I’m not freaked out by them. They are just there.
Second is the general sensations I sometimes feel. They also change during the half hour I lay resting with the needles in place. They vary depending on the place the needles are inserted. Besides my “normal” feeling I also might feel tingling, or warmth. As I leave I feel different than when I began my appointment. Sometimes my whole body feels relaxed, even ready for sleep.
At home during the week between appointments my foot and leg sensations feel different day to day. About the third or fourth day I feel things are worse than when I started. The tingling is more pronounced and my feet are stiffer. But that doesn’t last. About day six the feelings have changed again and better than before. The tingling is lighter and foot stiffness covers less area. Last week I even felt my feet were waking up after sitting cross-legged with lack of circulation.
Dr. Xu says this is “unblocked energy flow”. From tai chi I learned she’d meant qi. Being the kind person she is Dr. Xu Westernized the term for me. She also praises how well my body is doing.
Acupuncture Explained – Sorta
For those who want to know, here’s a brief, simple acupuncture and acupressure overview.
Acupuncture and the even older acupressure are based on the qi meridians. The chart below shows the 12 main human meridians color coded according to the Chinese five element philosophy, a system of phases describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. Western science is only beginning to find evidence the energy meridians’ exist, but not their function.
In Western terms, meridians act as another “nervous system” moving qi energy throughout your body. Blocked qi flow means energy trapped on the wrong side stalls and possibly manifests as physical ailments. Physical injuries may also cause the meridian blockages. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes acupuncture frees the blocked energy and restores its flow aiding your body in it’s recovery.
Working along one meridian unblocks it and frees up its energy flow. It’s also beneficial to work indirectly as it’s gentler on the body than directly busting the clog.
The Five Element theory is similar to other ancient element theories. Deeply woven into Chinese culture it is the foundation of disciplines such as feng shui, tai chi, and the I Ching. I view it as a framework created by ancient human’s to better understand the processes they saw.
The spiritual energy of the five elements — wood, fire, earth, metal, and water — are believed to be nature’s universal building blocks and the generating and overcoming forces between which interactions occur. Think of it as a natural rock-paper-scissors. Every element has another that “generates” it and a different one that “checks” it, thus maintaining balance and harmony. So if your wood element qi has a blockage or imbalance, it can be weakened by boosting your fire energy.
What I can tell you is acupuncture works. While my neuropathy still needs treatment it has improved. But Dr. Xu warned me from the start it would take more treatments than other issues. My insomnia and anxiety are reduced. And surprisingly I didn’t suffer exhaustion when I returned from my six-day Philadelphia tour. I expected to be a slug for days. Before, even an SCA day-trip depleted my stamina. I am more functional now than I was.
But I learned more from this bucket list attempt than just acupuncture works. It’s also more affordable than I realized. Less than half what a Western doctor’s visit and medicine costs. So, people are participating because their medical insurance is high or they have none. Some, like Veterans, have it provided by insurance. Some, like me, because a drug’s side effects were worse than their issue but still want relief.
So far I’m very satisfied. I wouldn’t seek Eastern treatment for every health problem, but I do think it is effective in many instances.