A FIRST TIME EXPERIENCE WITH ACUPUNCTURE
For years I wanted to see what all the fuss about with acupuncture. In the past I’d actually contemplated even becoming an acupuncturist, but without even first trying it. I was so curious to know if these pins, inserted just ¼ - ½ inch (0.6 – 1.3 cm) deep, actually do anything to the body. Does it hurt? Will I feel some sweeping energy come over my body? So, I gave it a try.
Why try Acupuncture?
Curiosity can stand-alone for a great reason to try acupuncture. Make an opinion for yourself about it. Test your nerves when it comes to pain and fear of a little needle. Experience all life has to offer!
If you are interested in trying acupuncture for health or well being (poor digestion, acne, a sore back, trying to get pregnant), one thing I can say is that trying it won’t make things worse. There are many purported health benefits to acupuncture, with claims on the level of benefit varying often whether it comes from a Western or Eastern critic.
One of the purported benefits is simply that it helps to feel more balanced in life. The philosophy goes like this…
In our bodies we have two energies. One of them is energetic, called yang. The other is soothing, known as yin. Sound familiar? Yang is associated with the properties heat, excitement, adrenaline, the sun, masculinity, and the right side of our body. Yin is cool, calm, peace, the moon, femininity, and the left side of the body. As we live in a fast-paced, rat-race kind of world it’s easy to swing a little bit towards the yang side of things. Mind-body practices such as acupuncture, yoga, or tai chi, help to restore balance. But doesn’t yin energy sound like it’s for slackers, someone to lie around to, you might think?! Oh no! In order to have a strong yang, it’s crucial to have a balanced yin.
Think about the times in your life when you’re pushing for deadlines, friends, getting in shape, always trying to outdo last week’s you. If you don’t get a restful weekend in, you’ll be completely drained the following week. Allowing ourselves that rejuvenating “me” time, we are building a strong foundation to support the next week’s activities. It’s the same like yin & yang.
But don’t rush. Do what’s right for you. I spent years trying to find reasons to try acupuncture, but eventually I found three reasons that convinced me to give it a try:
2. A pulled-hamstring, nearly a year old that still gave me lingering pain
3. Wanted to balance hormones as some things seemed a little off
What to Expect
Everyone’s experience will be slightly different, but this was mine. If you decide to give it a try, be confident in your acupuncturist. I chose to see Ingrid Masi in Australia based on a referral from a close friend. Upon meeting her, she was sweet and lovely, with a soft smile and shiny blond hair that ended just below her shoulders. She was radiant, a poster-child for health.
Ingrid invited me in and asked me questions about my health, lifestyle, and diet. She was easy to talk to and when it came time for me to lie down on the table, I was fully expecting to shed down to my knickers, but she said there was no need. I was just fine in shorts and a tank top.
She took my pulse with her hand, measuring six different spots and hardly missing a beat from the conversation. I showed her my tongue and she asked whether I’d had coffee that morning. Sheepishly, I admitted I had, fearing I’d disgraced myself from her naturopathic ways. She began to apply light pressure to different parts of my body, the center of my chest and feet, asking if I felt pain to the pressure. Some of the spots were more sensitive than others. And then the needles appeared.
The best advice I can give someone before getting acupuncture done is to know yourself and enjoy the experience. Be prepared to account for your lifestyle by sharing it with another person. Write down the names of vitamins, supplements, or medicines you take, in case you forget. Consider whether you use the bathroom at routine times each day, what your eating patterns have been like, how you manage stress, and where that stress is coming from. Do you know your blood type and Ayurvedic constitution? Even better!
Does It Hurt?
Ingrid was fantastic, being sure to pre-empt me before the miniscule prick of the insertion. I have a few tattoos and no phobia of needles, so I couldn’t help but think she was making a bigger fuss out of the needles than I was! But good on her – I suspect people’s pain tolerance is one of the more extreme variables when it comes to trying acupuncture. Sometimes I didn’t notice any sensation at all from the needle. Other times it was a tiny prick, but never did I feel like a live voodoo doll.
What Else Do You Feel?
A few needles were inserted at my left ankle, two on my right thigh about an inch above the knee, my right wrist and left hand also got one or two. Her needlework was done in a matter of moments. She inquired whether I was comfortable (I was) and then left me with an eye-mask and some relaxing music to let my energy do as it might.
It was first in my hands that I felt this strange pulsing, like that of a heartbeat, except it wasn’t in time with mine. The palpitating flow moved in waves from my wrists out through my fingers. “So this is energy.” I thought to myself. After a few minutes it calmed to be replaced with warmth. My mind was instantly curious. Was this real? I’m so sensitive to the cold, often with chilled extremities and poor circulation – Could my hands really be creating this heat?
After that subsided, my attention became fixated on the pins in my thigh. A warmth, like that associated with an infection, began to grow in circumference around the pins in my thigh. It shifted to crawl up the back of my hamstring to my sacrum and coccyx, where I’ve been experiencing pain. Yet at that moment I found myself contemplating “Is this, too, pain?”
I decided it wasn’t and returned to focus on relaxing. Lastly, about 5 minutes before she returned, the left side of my body became acutely present. I’d never felt such an intense awareness on one side of my body. “Woah,” I thought. “So this is yin energy!”
How Does Acupuncture Work?
It's fascinating, but best if you hear this one from a doctor. I suggest you check out the wisdom of Chris Kresser as he discusses acupuncture.
Does Acupuncture Work?
A week has now passed since my acupuncture experience. I am happy to share that my hormonal issue has clearing up and my curiosity is cured. My hamstring felt better for the first few days, but the following week of teaching yoga brought back the dull ache and some pain that circulates around my sacrum. According the Chris Kresser, acupuncture for chronic pain should be repeated several times so the brain eventually switches over to realise there's no need to send a pain sensation to the body. I might need a bit more focus on it, but I've found that getting out and walking helps, as did a visit to a lady down at the Thai Massage shop.
There’s a large amount of skepticism about whether acupuncture works or if it’s a placebo effect. The crazy thing about placebo affects, as a doctor pointed out to me recently, is that often times the placebo can trick our brain into thinking it’s the real deal and bring about healing. This is also insanely interesting! If you’ve got a bit more time, here is one of my favourite Radio Lab podcasts, “Placebo,” that will continue to keep you entertained and informed.
Until next time, keep it shanti.