I had my first acupuncture treatment yesterday.

Ok, I know some people may be rolling their eyes. I used to think acupuncture sounded a bit hokey as well. Seriously, how could poking someone with needles actually do any good? But the more I studied it, the more I began to realize there is actually a lot more to it than that.

I began my interest in acupuncture well before I got into vet school when I saw a bird practically go to sleep when a gentle pressure was applied to a certain spot on the top of its head. After getting into vet school, I began to take more of an interest in some of the more non-traditional therapies available. I learned a couple of really interesting facts. First, acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and the points haven’t changed. Scientists actually discovered a mummified body with tattoos of acupuncture points. They also discovered that the person had likely suffered from a degenerative joint disease. A bunch of Western scientists were bothered that they didn’t understand how it worked, so they dissected out all of the acupuncture points and found what amounted to powerhouses in the nervous system. So the points may have not been scientifically defined, but they were far from random.

I’ve studied acupuncture, watched it, and even done some basic needle placing in animals. I’ve learned a lot of things, but there are three basic points that relate to my experience.
1.) It’s not supposed to hurt.
2.) You aren’t supposed to bleed.
3.) You aren’t supposed to pass out.

I did all three (ok, not completely pass out, but started feeling light headed). It basically translated to this:
1.) It’s inflamed where it hurts.
2.) Any point that bleeds is an area that really needed a needle.
3.) Holy $@?&.

So that brings me to my experience. I’ve believed in the effectiveness of acupuncture for a few years but it never actually occurred to me to go for my back injury. When I arrived, I was informed that she was going to use 3 different types of therapy: acupuncture, cold laser, and micro-current. All of these work together to accelerate healing. She started by placing a few needles. Now, these needles are about the width of 2 human hairs, so the most you will feel is a little prick. The ones I felt the most were behind my knee, and of all those I felt, I tended to feel them more on the left side (the side of the impact). After the needles were all placed, I couldn’t feel them at all, even if I moved. After the needles were in place, she started with the cold laser. That basically felt like a really cold pen cap, so again, nothing big. Until she got to the spot right over my left kidney, the part where I have been feeling the most pain for the past 3 weeks. That felt more like someone was touching a really bad bruise. She explained that this meant that area was really inflamed, which makes sense since its been hurting constantly. At this point, I start to get the feeling that I’m about to pass out. I tell her this, and she moves with the same speed I did when a cat went into cardiac arrest on my table. She sticks a needle in the top of my head and starts gently applying pressure to various points and eventually the feeling passes. (Please note that the ONLY way I have ever been able to stop an attack is to lie on my back with my knees up in the air. The only thing sitting with my head between my knees does is ensures that my head will be the first thing to hit the floor when I do pass out.) So why did I feel such a strong reaction? Apparently, my energy was moving too fast. My body essentially relived the crash, and even though there was no physical or mental response, my muscles and nerves remembered and basically had the same response they did when I was hit. It really brought home just how severe the crash was, how much my body went through, how much shock it absorbed. It all makes me wonder what would have happened if my adrenaline wasn’t so high. So after that is all over, she starts with the micro-current therapy. I really can’t describe it too well, but it really helped with the pain. Finally, she removed the needles, and I only had one that bled (mind you, paper cuts bleed worse than this did), and it was a kidney point on my left side. When a needle point bleeds, it means that there is a “stagnation of chi.” Regardless of what you believe about chi and energy flow, it makes sense that an area with a lot of tension and pressure will be more apt to bleed once that pressured is released. I wasn’t surprised at the point that bled, I actually expected more. She told me that I would be sore today, but more like a post-workout sore than a true pain sore.

I scheduled my next appointment for a week from today, and thankfully, I shouldn’t have quite the extreme reaction I had this time. You might think I’m crazy for wanting to do this again after nearly passing out, but the truth is, I had those reactions because I needed this. I’ve been in constant pain for three weeks and no pain killer I’ve been given has provided more than a mild temporary relief. If I didn’t need to break the cycle, if I didn’t need to get my systems straightened out and unplugged, I wouldn’t have felt this way. This morning, I definitely feel sore, but for the first time since February 6th, I’m not hurting. It truly is amazing.

Disclaimer: if you decide acupuncture may be right for you, please do research and make sure your acupuncturist is properly trained, certified, and licensed. Not every state regulates this and it’s easy for someone to say they have had training when they haven’t.

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