Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Acupuncture: The Needles Don't Hurt!

Yesterday, I went to see an acupuncturist, and it was really, really cool. I have been interested in acupuncture for many years. By "interested" I mean, in this context, that I thought acupuncture was intriguing, and put it in my aspirational box of fascinating things to explore next to chakras, feng shui, auras, yoga, eastern religions, astrology, numerology, belly dancing, goddesses, and meditation. Some of those I have taken out of the box over the years and incorporated into my life, such as yoga. Others, I dabble in now and then, and still others, such as belly dancing, I have yet to try even once. (But it's high on my list).

I find that whenever I get back on the path towards holistic health and well-being, I am drawn to that box and it leads me further on in my journey. Such was the case in this instance as well. In December, I went for a physical (for the first time in many years) to Dr. C, a doctor that a friend from work had recommended to me. My friend told me that Dr. C worked in a "kind of new-agey place" but that she was really good, specialized in women's health, and had a practical, holistic approach to medicine. As part of my physical, along with all the routine tests and bloodwork, Dr. C took a complete physical and mental health history and did a full allergy panel. I discovered that I was allergic to dust mites, but that I had no food allergies.

This was a bit of a surprise to me, because for the past two and half years I have struggled with my stomach being, how shall I say?, frequently out of sorts. During the day, either around late morning or early mid afternoon, my stomach often starts hurting. Sometimes it gets filled with gas that absolutely refuses to come out. It just sits there and slowly expands, causing me discomfort and hurt. Sometimes I have to lie on my stomach to make it leave my body. That's a bit embarrassing. Usually those episodes end in a fit of giggles. Other times, I'll leave work, do something fun or relaxing, and all of the pressure and pain in my stomach will just fade away as if it had never been there.

I thought for the longest time that I must be causing my stomach to get upset with the foods that I was eating, and went through elaborate food elimination tests to try to isolate the devious culprit. For example, I realized that I ate soy milk only during the week, because before work I generally have a bowl of Go Lean Kashi Crunch cereal and Silk chocolate soy milk, and on the weekends, with late brunches, I tend to eat omelets. Because of this pattern, I came to think for a time that I must be allergic to soy milk. This was a depressing thought because, as a non-milk-drinking vegetarian, chocolate soy milk not only provides me necessary calcium, it's also an essential ingredient in some of my favorite things like coffee and chocolate-banana smoothies. However, because my stomach was feeling sick all the time (during the week), I stopped drinking soy milk to see if that would help. Of course it didn't.

By the time I met with Dr. C, I was still thinking that I might be allergic to something, but had started thinking that perhaps it was the stress of work, instead of my morning breakfast or the food in the cafeteria (which is disgusting), that was causing my stomach to freak out so often. I had realized that the common denominator with my stomach issues was not food, but work. My stomach is never sick on the weekends.

Dr. C's allergy tests proved that I have no food allergies. Not one! Not to milk, wheat germ, cheese, chocolate, nothing. Her tests also showed that as far as my physical health is concerned, I'm as a sturdy as a horse. In talking with Dr. C about the food allergy results and my stomach issues, she indicated that she thought it sounded like stress, and not food was the culprit. It turns out that my stomach, instead of being temperamental, is just really smart. It knows what it likes, and what it doesn't like. One thing it apparently does not like at all is my current job. Her and me both.

Short of quitting my job, Dr. C suggested incorporating yoga and meditation to help with stress management and the creation of an over-all sense of well-being. In addition, she suggested acupuncture. As I told you about before, Dr. C was playing the role of a messenger, bringing me messages that I had heard before, but needed to hear again so that I could really listen this time and actually take some action on at least some of them.

It took me almost four months to follow-up on the acupuncture idea, and now that I went I'm really excited about it. A big part of my excitement is pride. I'm proud that I took positive action to take care of myself. I'm also excited because acupuncture is a whole new subject for me, about which I know almost nothing. In starting to learn about it, I recently discovered that acupuncture is a form of ancient Chinese medicine that has been used for almost 5,000 years to promote health, balance and vitality. Did you know that?

It was also fun to meet my acupuncturist. She's awesome, as one would expect from someone practicing holistic medicine. She, like Dr. C, took a full history of my symptoms. She asked about what was troubling me, what medications I was taking, what I ate for breakfast (she gave me the thumbs up on the Kashi Crunch and soy milk), etc. Then she had me lie down, put a satin herbal eye pillow over my eyes that smelled of lavender, told me to relax, and inserted approximately 8 needles into various parts of my body. She put two on my feet, one on each of my shins, one on each of my wrists, and at least one on my chest. All of the points into which she inserted the needles have some significance, related to my energy flows, but that's all I know at this point. She said that I had an energy blockage around my stomach area. Sounds right to me.

The whole experience was very relaxing, and it made me happy. Before I left she stuck a very small needle attached to a tiny piece of cloth (like a miniature band-aid) into the top inner part of my left ear. Get this, it is supposed to stay stuck to my ear for an entire week. Every time I start feeling stressed out, I am supposed to press the needle into my ear for approximately one minute. It doesn't hurt, it just gives me a sensation that's hard to describe. It's super cool. I'm going back to her next week at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, and will see her thereafter each week until I start "feeling better." She is officially the newest member of my health posse.

If you've been contemplating acupuncture, I highly recommend it. Go for it. If you've done it, tell me about it. I'd be interested to hear about your experiences.


wordnerd said...

wow, good for you...really Buttercup, the steps you've taken lately are most impressive. You are really "doing things" to improve your health, in general, and I admire you greatly for this.

I've always wondered what acupuncture was like...that just gave me a good idea!

Gypsy said...

Holy crap, that's fascinating. And terrifically terrifying. I'm all for holistic healing, in theory, but I've never tried any of it. Now I'm further intrigued...

Buttercup said...

Girls, you make me laugh. Thanks for your comments! Try it and let me know what you think. I'm telling you, it was fascinating. And I feel good today. Yippee!

Ally Bean said...

I've always wanted to try acupuncture. Thanks for sharing about your experience. It sounds so cool.

Baraka said...

I've been going to Harriet Beinfield (the co-author of a foundational book on Chinese Medicine, "Between Heaven & Earth") for two years now & I LOVE acupuncture - specifically by her. I had it done by some others while hospitalized & it was an awful, painful experience.

But with Harriet I walk out euphoric, relaxed and bursting with serene energy & health. I initially started because I had pain issues - was popping Vicodin like candy. After acu I am now pain med free. Incredible.

One question about the calcium intake - I was told that chocolate interferes with calcium absorption - have you heard anything about this? Just concerned if you're taking choci milk for calcium purposes.

Wishing you health & serenity!


Bean said...

That's way cool Buttercup. What I want to know is, how is your stomach? Do you still have to lay on your belly to relieve some pressure? Hahahaha. Love you, talk to you soon hopefully! But seriously, did she work on your belly or just stress points to relieve those symptoms...what did she say about it?

Buttercup said...


"euphoric, relaxed and bursting with serene energy & health."

Do you remember if you left feeling that way the first time? I didn't feel euphoric, but I felt relaxed and happy with the whole experience. Maybe that positive feelings build up over time?

I so want to be bursting with serene energy and health! That, and balance, is what I'm striving for.

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