Acupuncture for Beginners: My First Experience
So - if you couldn’t tell by the title - I had acupuncture for the first time today.
I’ll be honest: I was totally freaked out by it, going into it. I hate needles; despite the seemingly endless rounds of lab work I’ve had done (and the tattoo(s) I want), I am terrified of them. Like, full on, I’m-having-a-panic-attack-in-this-chair terrified. But my mom went the day before, and I’ve got a friend who swears by it, so after plenty of Googling and some deep breaths, I agreed to it. Plus, my new doctor (who has made me feel sooooo much better) suggested it, and honestly, if she told me to stand on my head and howl at the moon, I’d probably do it.
Want to know what I was actually worried about the most? Being cold. I woke up at 6:30 this morning to pouring rain and 40 degree weather (which is so not bad compared to some of you brave souls, but for this Georgia girl, it’s brutal). I had on three layers, a beanie, and a scarf, resulting in a look that was a little too far from off duty model and a little too close to a bad guy from Home Alone. But I got inside the spa, and my initial thoughts were, “Wow, it smells nice in here,” and, “Oh, it’s so warm.”
I filled out the paperwork, listing my health conditions, allergies, and general information. My acupuncturist, Alison, had obviously gone over everything by the time she joined me in my room, where I was blissed out on meditative music, the sound of the rain outside, and a tiny little space heater she had turned on before I stepped inside, because she was ready with more questions. Everything went without pause until she asked about an old jaw injury I had that I’d mentioned.
“What happened here?” she asked.
“I was ten or so,” I said. “And this guy I went to church with came running at me and hit me in the face with his King James Version Bible.”
This woman was so calm, soft spoken, and peaceful, but she almost broke. “Well,” she responded finally, on the verge of laughing. “I can honestly say I’ve never heard that one before.”
“Most people haven’t,” I agreed.
After we went over my forms, we chatted about the healing route we would take. I was most interested in improving my root health, reducing headaches and muscle tension, addressing hormonal issues, and easing stress. After talking more, she determined that my root health was at the point that we could focus on some of the outlying issues, like headaches, muscle tension, hormonal imbalances, and stress.
(On a side note, the other thing I liked about her was that she made a differentiation between “stress” and “anxiety.” I lived with anxiety for years, and, thanks to diet, exercise, nutrition, and lots of prayer and meditation, anxiety is a very rare, very mild occurrence for me. Stress? Stress and I are really good friends, which is why my YouTube suggestions are full of “Yoga for Stress Relief” and I sometimes look like I’m trying to gather enough speed on the elliptical to take off flying).
In my mind, I was going to end up covered from head to toe in needles, but I was pleasantly surprised; not only was it painless, there were only 10 or 12 needles, in my hands, shins, and feet. She talked me through the entire process, explaining what each point was for and how it would affect certain issues. When treating an old shoulder injury, for example, she put the needle in my left shin; it pinched slightly, and I jumped. “That’s your injured shoulder,” she told me. “It’s a channel. Most of the time, when patients come in with specific pain, I try to begin treatment on the channel, rather than the actual location of the pain, because they tend to tense up, and it only exacerbates the pain.”
She left me for five minutes after inserting the last needle, then, after checking on me and making sure I wasn’t having a major panic attack, left me for another twenty minutes in a dark room, covered in a light blanket. I was nearly asleep when she returned, and there’s no way to explain how utterly relaxed and at peace I felt. She removed the needles, then showed me a few self-massage techniques to relieve sinus headaches and foot pain.
I won’t begin to try to explain how acupuncture works (here’s a lovely little article on mindbodygreen to check out if you’re interested in Acupuncture 101), but I will say this: I am a needle-phobe who, while a firm believer in holistic remedies, is also very practical and grounded in what I think actually works (or works for me, at least). I was a bit skeptical about acupuncture at first, but after only 25 minutes, I can’t wait until my next appointment. If you’ve been considering it, go for it. If you’re a skeptic, do some research and try to have an open mind! It’s so worth taking the risk. Stay tuned; I’ll do another update in two weeks, following my next appointment.