About a couple weeks ago I began having acupuncture treatments again after a long, two-year hiatus. Why hadn't I been back for so long? Honestly, I can't even remember. Sickness? Fatigue? Inconvenience? Insurance problems? Something related to any or all of that, I'm sure. But the important news right now is that I'm back! Getting stabbed with small, thin needles several times a week and then lying under a warm red light like I'm a chicken being slowly roasted. Oh, the memories come right back. Let's hope it's worth it. Is acupuncture worth it? That's the main question I'm regularly asking myself once again, as I keep climbing up onto that white table and enduring needles pricking into my sinuses (and elsewhere). I hope so. I don't want to be doing all of this for nothing. Who does?
What is acupuncture anyway?
Most people are probably familiar with the word and even a vague notion of what this practice entails: needles being stuck into a person's body to hopefully improve health. Past that, the details might be foggy or completely absent. I've done some research on acupuncture and I've had it done to my body, yet I still often feel a bit unsure about the whole thing. Is it medicine? Science? Magic? Something in-between?
According to the Mayo Clinic's website:
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain. Increasingly, it is being used for overall wellness, including stress management.
Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as chi or qi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.
So, I have now returned to the same TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) clinic to get my chi unblocked, which is where I had my very first acupuncture treatment over 10 years ago. I like this clinic and I like the acupuncturists, who are all originally medical doctors from China, which I find reassuring. They should know what they're doing with this ancient Chinese practice, right? Also great, I can usually get in for appointments pretty easily. This is important when the treatments are supposed to work better if you can go regularly.
Integrative medicine for RA
Recently I was also excited to learn from my integrative medicine doctor that my primary care clinic (where she practices) has added an acupuncturist. Wonderful! My insurance would pay for most of it and I could probably knock out some appointments while I'm over at that medical center anyway. However, there's bad news: I can't get an appointment until late July. My doctor has raved about how good this acupuncturist is and I was really intrigued and looking forward to seeing her. But, unfortunately, my horrendous headaches can't wait until July. Relief is needed NOW! This was a disappointment, to say the least. So, with renewed hope and dedication, back to TCM I went.
Speaking of relief, are the treatments helping? What's happening with all of these needles sticking out of my body? Well, to say that I'm an easy case to deal with would be...wrong. I have several painful and chronic health issues, and I haven't had any acupuncture in two years. I'm pretty sure my chi has been dried up like the Sahara Desert for some time and maybe, maybe it's starting to move in a trickle again. I don't know. I've only had four treatments, I think, and they aren't supposed to work immediately. And again, I have a lot of things wrong with me so I'm not going to be magically feeling like a healthy healed person suddenly. I would not complain, however, if that happened.
The conditions that I'm currently being treated for with acupuncture include:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis pain and swelling (especially my feet and ankles)
- Chronic tension headaches
- Chronic jaw pain (from teeth clenching)
- Digestive/G.I. problems (nausea, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn)
- Poor sleep
- Mood (depression and anxiety)
- Sinuses (congestion, inflammation, infections, headache)
But is it working?
I'm not sure yet. In the past it definitely helped with my headaches and sinus problems, however, it didn't seem to do much for my RA. Not that I could tell, anyway. Interestingly, immediately after the needles are removed during each treatment, I feel a definite sense of relaxation and calm wash over me. This feeling usually lasts throughout the evening, too. I hope that means that something is happening and I'm not just imagining it.
However acupuncture goes this time around, I'm trying to be positive and hopeful about it. If stabbing my body parts with needles can make my miserable headaches go away, even if my RA isn't helped much, I think it's worth it. Let's unclog those meridians and free some chi!
Right now, what RA tips would most be helpful for you?