The other day I got to thinking and realized that I could not think of one general area of my body where I have not been stuck with a needle. Between acupuncture, Botox, IVs, vaccinations, intramuscular injections, localized anesthetic, trigger point injections, an odd test performed by my first neurologist that involved sticking wires that felt like needles into my shins, blood tests, and a tiny tattoo, there really isn’t anywhere I haven’t been poked like a pin cushion. All in the name of migraine relief. This is going to be a two-part post: Today, I’ll be discussing acupuncture. The second post will focus on Botox injections.
I have a severe phobia of needles and, unfortunately, my veins are itsy-bitsy which makes it extra fun for doctors and nurses to try and inject me with anything. Naturally, when people suggested acupuncture, I said “No thanks, it’s not going to work, please leave me alone.” But so many people suggested it and I got so desperate, that I agreed to try it. My mindset was that I would try it for a session, it wouldn’t work, and then I could throw that in people’s faces. A couple of things are wrong with that, right off the bat:
1.) It is extremely likely that it will take more than one session of acupuncture before you start seeing any results.
2.) Most treatments are MUCH more likely to work if you believe that they will or, at the very least, go in with an open mind.
3.) Having chronic migraines for 10 years has a tendency to make one bitter, myself included. But people who are genuinely trying to suggest things don’t deserve to have things thrown back in their faces. (I am not always good at emulating that last part; but do as I say, not as I do.)
Luckily, I found an acupuncture clinic about 10 minutes away from my house that has “Clinic” hours on Wednesdays and Fridays. This means that, from 3-7 pm, you can receive acupuncture treatments in a “community” room with about 5 massage tables in it, separated by screens. So long as you don’t mind being in a room with other people (and the other tables aren’t always even occupied), you can pay a sliding scale fee of $25-$50. It’s all about what you feel you can pay and you don’t have to prove anything to them about your finances. I actually really like being in a room with other people. It’s still very quiet, there’s soothing music on, it’s a beautiful space, and it’s nice to feel the healing energy of other people.
My acupuncturist is named Jack and, because I am hilarious, I call my sessions with him Jack-u-puncture. His energy alone can lower my migraine by one or two numbers on the pain scale. He’s soothing and nurturing and caring and he remembers things about you and treats you as though you are a whole person. He doesn’t just treat your migraines or just treat your anxiety or just treat your insomnia or just treat your back pain or just treat your gastrointestinal issues. He treats them all at once, with acupuncture and, occasionally, Chinese herbs. My sessions with him generally last around an hour. Sometimes, they use incense in the main “community” room. Because Jack is aware of and respects my sensitivity to smells and knows that incense will trigger a migraine, he will move me into a private room on those days, for no extra charge, even though private rooms cost more. He really cares about his patients.
The first time I went to see Jack, I was terrified. He came highly recommended by someone I trust but I was still acting like a caged animal. Suspicious, snarky, and trying not to cry. He walked me through the whole process, explaining everything along the way, reassuring me that if anything hurt, he would stop immediately but that it was unlikely that anything would hurt. He told me he would only put needles in my arms and legs that day, not in my face or head, in order to let me get used to the process. As he put the needles in, I realized I could barely feel a thing, if I felt anything at all. All at once, my body flooded with a feeling as though I had been given Ativan in an IV. “What did you just do?” I asked. He glanced at me “Did it hurt?” I couldn’t speak for me a minute. “No, no. I feel so…calm. And my shoulders and neck don’t hurt anymore. Is that supposed to happen or am I going nuts?” He smiled. “No, that’s supposed to happen. That’s why I put that particular needle there.” I was hooked. I continued to go at least once a week, sometimes twice a week and it helped with so many of my health issues. Did it cure my migraines? No. But it did help to prevent them and make them less severe. I wholeheartedly believe that one of the reasons my migraines have begun to rage out of control again is because I went so long without seeing Jack.
I had a session today, which is why I chose to write this post tonight. I left feeling better than I have in months. I still feel the effects of it now. If it makes any sense, it feels like there are roads inside my body that get all jammed up with traffic and, after a session with Jack, all the cars are moving smoothly in one orderly direction. I can’t explain the feeling and maybe it sounds ridiculous but, somehow, it works. It is now my intention to see Jack at least once a week for the foreseeable future.
I hope that what you got out of this post was an inside look at acupuncture and why it’s worth a try. I also hope that I conveyed that it’s not as scary and/or painful as people make it out to be. Everybody’s different but, if your doctor is on-board, I would recommend giving acupuncture a try and, if you’re in the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts, head to “Amherst Community Acupuncture” and ask for Jack Radner!