Acupuncture Diary, Week 1: Let’s Do This!

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In recent years, I’ve become much more interested in taking a natural approach to my health. I love making my own beauty products out of pure, natural ingredients and have found myself reading the label of every product I buy – whether it be food, makeup, hair products, etc. – making sure I understand exactly what it is that I’m putting into and onto my body.

I‘ve been intrigued by acupuncture for as long as I can remember.  The fact that it came about in ancient China and is still practiced today leads me to believe that there must be something to it. I had always wanted to try it, but never really thought I had a solid reason – until now.

Definition of Acupuncture

I’ve been having issues with my stomach for a little over a year. The issues have evolved over the months, leaving me with ever-changing symptoms. When I first noticed the problem, I went and saw multiple gastrointestinologists. I had test upon test performed with no clear answer. I was prescribed a couple of different medicines. None of them worked. I kept meaning to make follow up appointments, would always put it off. Before I knew it, an entire year had gone by and I hadn’t seen a doctor.

Finally I decided that something had to be done. After one insightful conversation with my aunt (who, as well as my uncle, does acupuncture regularly), I decided it was time to go for it. I decided it was time to try acupuncture. I have faith in my decision to use this type of medicine; I really have a good feeling about this. That’s why I’ve decided to share my experiences with you guys on a weekly basis. Please follow along if you like. If you’ve gone through something similar, please share your experience in the comments!

Since this is the first post of the series, it’s quite a long one. Be warned!

Week 1, session 1: My Very First Time

Every couple of weeks, an acupuncturist comes down to the Navy Yard (where the FP home office is located) and offers discounted acupuncture sessions. I chose to do a community session with two of my coworkers, which was significantly cheaper than a private session. The only difference is that you don’t get a private room, but who needs a private room anyway? This didn’t phase us.

We met Vashni in a home-like building in the Navy Yard. She took us to a room upstairs, where there was a bed, a cot, and a reclining chair. I chose the cot. Vashni sat next to me and asked what was bothering me. I explained that my stomach always feels off; it feels as if I’m hungry or thirsty, but it’s not something that can be fixed by eating or drinking. I constantly feel bloated, and this seems to drain the energy from me. I showed her my discolored (orange) tongue, mentioned the acidic taste that seems to come along with it, and explained that these issues are much more intense when I’m anxious, which happens more often than I feel it should.

I laid face up and Vashni talked to me while she took my pulses. She explained that in Chinese medicine it would be said that my stomach qi (or “life energy”) is flowing the wrong way.

Then came the needles. Ladies and gentlemen, if you are afraid of needles, YOU CAN STILL DO THIS. These are the tiniest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I could barely feel them in my body. The only spot that was even remotely uncomfortable was on the back my hand, right below that webbed space between my thumb and pointer finger. It was just a very slight feeling of discomfort – I wouldn’t even call it pain. The needles were inserted right through my clothes – I only needed to remove my shoes and socks.

Socks

After all 12 or so needles were in my body, I laid on the cot with my eyes closed for about a half hour. A background soundtrack of wind chimes and birds played faintly as I drifted off into a dreamlike state, with images of pleasant childhood summers flooding my mind.

Vashni reentered the room after a half hour and removed all of the needles. I didn’t notice an improvement in my ailments right then, as that would be rare for just one session, but I felt relaxed and happy.

I explained to the Vashni that I would love to be treated regularly but that I just don’t have the money to be paying around $100 per session, as many clinics charge. It was at that moment that I first heard of the Barefoot Doctor – an awesome clinic in Fishtown that charges patients on a sliding scale between $15-$35 per session. You know what you can afford; you decide what you pay.

Week 1, session 2:  Checking out the Barefoot Doctor

Per Vashni’s tip, I decided to visit the Barefoot Doctor in Fishtown. I was able to make an appointment online, which was an automatic bonus from the start. I entered a small reception area where Jenny (the owner and acupuncturist) asked me to fill out some forms about my health – the type of forms you fill out when visiting any doctor for the first time.

When I was done, Jenny came and sat beside me and went through the entire thing with me. She asked lots of questions, not just about my physical health, but about things I’ve been through emotionally, as well. She seemed to really be listening to everything I said and made me feel extremely comfortable from the start.

Jenny told me that she believes it is an issue not just with my stomach, but with my liver, as well. She explained that in Chinese medicine, it would be said that I have an excess of heat in my body. She explained this a little more deeply and then told me to find an empty seat in the back.

I walked around a corner into the back of the room where there were 5 reclining chairs, 4 of them taken. I took off my shoes and socks, placed them in a cubby along with my purse, and sat in the empty seat.

Shoes and Purse in Cubby

In a few minutes, Jenny appeared. She reclined my seat and inserted the tiny needles, all-the-while talking to me about my issues, acupuncture, and life in general. She mentioned that my acne (which I’ve been battling for 13 years) is probably linked to these stomach/liver issues – a thought that had never even crossed my mind. When all (26 or so) needles were in place, she left me to relax, telling me that I could stay there as long as I like. Soft, soothing music played in the background. I felt quite relaxed, but had a harder time keeping my eyes closed than last time. Maybe I wanted to be aware of who was coming or going; maybe I was feeling anxious about being in a new environment.

Every 10 minutes or so, Jenny would enter the area to see if anyone was ready to have their needles removed.  After about 30 or 40 minutes, I gave her the nod, and she removed my needles, disposing of them in a medical waste bin.

I met her in the reception area, where she showed me an herbal supplement that she thought would benefit me. She listed all of the benefits off to me and I was sold. The tablets are made of coptis, phellodendron, scute, evodia, peony, saussurea, licorice, and jujube – mostly cooling herbs to counteract my overly heated insides.

Cooling Herbs

She told me to start with a small dose and work up to the recommended dose of 2 tablets three times a day. She recommended that I try taking them right before I eat and see how I felt.

I wrote my name on an itty bitty envelope (to be reused forever!) and slipped in some bills: $10 for the initial paperwork, $14 for the herbs, and then my appointment cost, which (as I mentioned before) can be anywhere between $15 and $35 on a sliding scale, depending on what you can afford. I inserted the little envelope into a box on the reception desk, thanked Jenny, and was on my way!

I left feeling relaxed, content, and very optimistic about what my acupuncture-filled future holds for me. Full of positive, new experiences and lots of hope, I’d say week 1 was a success. Make sure you check back next week to follow along my acupuncture journey with me!

Photos by Brigette.

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Comments

Chloe -January 10, 2013, 8:26AM

I was having a lot of the same issues as you (stomach, feeling anxious in new environments, my body doesn’t adjust to them, ect) anyway I have had these problems since I was little and I have never been able to resolve these issues with medicine. So I tried acupuncture about 7 months ago. On my first visit she checked everything (my tongue, pulse, strength, I don’t remember what else) she was very thorough and asked me a ton of questions I didn’t even think we’re connected to my issues. My problem was that my body was not absorbing the nutrients in my food. She gave me so many vitamins and other supplements and cut soy and corn out of my diet. Acupuncture was the best thing I ever could have done. My life is completely changed and I really hope it works out for you too!!

Eva -January 10, 2013, 9:55AM

I have never tried accupuncture but have been wanting to try out of curiousity…I hope this does help you and you are all better. Thanks for sharing this with us!

KESH -January 10, 2013, 10:53PM

Hi Brigette,

I enjoyed reading about your acupuncture experiences! I have to say that I love my acupuncture sessions and try to make an appointment once a month. After every session I always feel more calm and centered. I have also suffered with digestive issues over the years and one of the things that really helped me was doing a parasitic cleanse. They say (Dr. Oz and my holistic doc) that 90% of Americans have parasites and don’t even know it. You can check out more info about this at the site below:

http://rawgirltoxicworld.com/category/parasites-2/

Best of luck to you!

+K

katie -January 11, 2013, 12:02AM

please be more critical when thinking that a relaxing ritual is actually having a medical effect.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/acupuncture-revisited/

Tamberine -January 11, 2013, 9:37AM

I have the opposite condition, my body runs cool. I haven’t tried acupuncture though, just working on my diet and working with individual herbs for now.

fp brigette -January 11, 2013, 10:03AM

Thank you all for your comments! KESH – I will definitely check it out! And Katie – I’ll keep everyone updated on how these treatments are affecting me. If the most I get out of this is relaxation, I will still be a happy girl!

gem -January 11, 2013, 10:31AM

u might be into this approach ….. astrology and herbalism
http://www.gembotanicalsblog.wordpress.com
happy new moon in capricorn
xx
gem

Calley -January 11, 2013, 1:07PM

i love that you posted this… i’m in my last semester of grad school studying acupuncture and herbal medicine. it truly is an amazing medicine : )

Stephanie -January 11, 2013, 11:11PM

This is really interesting. I have gastritis and having no clue what to eat, I tried to change my diet little by little but some months I’m fine and then it’s a week of throwing up every day. I’m scared to go to another doctor because no one seems to help me (Neck issues that weren’t solved along with an ankle that never healed from being sprained) and my mind is really open to anything. It’s scary having these problems especially with stomach cancer history in my family. Oh god I could write a lot more but i’ll leave it at that. I look forward to reading more!

Jenny Ekberg -January 12, 2013, 9:11AM

I am a neuroscientist and I find that some people in my field are skeptical to acupuncture, which to me is pretty strange. I know it works. In China, in many hospitals they combine Western and traditional medicine (including acupuncture). It has been scientifically proven that acupuncture for example increases blood flow to the uterus, increasing the success rate of IVF. I don’t know if it was the reason but I did 5 IVF cycles myself and on the 5th one I had acupuncture and got pregnant with twins… (they are almost 3 now…)

Jenny Ekberg -January 12, 2013, 9:12AM

PS. But sometimes, yes, I agree with the comment above that SOMETIMES you only receive a relaxing effect and it is important to understand that it doesn’t always solve the problem…

Jenny Ekberg -January 12, 2013, 9:19AM

Ps again, sorry for posting lots of comments, but I just wanted to say it would probably be a good idea to still go and see that gastroenterologist as well… combined Western and Chinese medicine is a winner, I think!

Lou -January 12, 2013, 9:54PM

I’ve had digestive issues for as long as i can remember and saw several doctors regarding my issues. About six months ago i had back problems due to knots in my back from stress. I decided to try acupuncture and fell i love. like you said the first time is just relaxing but after about 2-3 treatments everything improves. She tells me ways to keep my stress levels down and physically i feel a huge difference. I hope everything improves for you as well.
best of luck,
lou

Catherine -January 14, 2013, 3:34AM

I also recently started acupuncture, helping me with my weight-beause I’m overweight. I had heard that it helps with weight issues so i decided to try it. At first yes i was a little scared as would anyone i think because of the procedure and needles, but yes it does not hurt, their may be discomfort a little but nothing bad.
And I’ve had about 8 sessions so far, and i do see a difference not only in my weight but as the person i am. I see that my energy has increased so much-that I’ve been going to the gym 5x a week and before i would go maybe once. And now I’m like very thrilled to go the gym not lazy one bit-which is a plus for me. Although there still is a long way to go, I’m very happy where i am today and what I’m doing and the new person I’m becoming and I’m very excited to see how my weight changes and how i change. I would recommend to anyone!-my mom is also trying it-she has stomach problems as well and so far it has helped her to.

Chicago Acupuncture -January 15, 2013, 3:50AM

I enjoy reading your experience with Acupuncture. It is really an effective medicine which is not yet very popular to the public.

Erin Schmitt -January 30, 2013, 10:48AM

The People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (of which the Barefoot Doctor Clinic is a member) has a Clinic Locator page:
https://www.pocacoop.com/clinics/search/0,0/18000/
Check it out if you don’t live nearby- there are member clinics all over the country, with affordable sliding scales!

Tracy Ng -February 19, 2013, 3:37PM

I am so pleased to hear that you tried acupuncture!! It is indeed wonderful for many ailments, or for general maintenance and tune-up for the body. I am ecstatic that you also found an acupuncture clinic that works on a sliding scale. As an acupuncturist, I feel it is very important to stay true to why I entered the profession—which was to help people heal! So I always try to work with patients so that finances do not get in the way of healing and wellness.
I hope you continue on your journey to healing!
Dr. Tracy Ng, L.Ac., DAOM

Niki -April 30, 2013, 1:18PM

Hey Brigette,
I much like you have recently taken to a natural approach to my health to deal with stomach problems and acne that I’ve been battling for years. Today I went to a regular physiotherapy session for an old wrist injury I have, the therapist brought up acupuncture as something she wanted to try out on me. I had just read this post before going and because I had read it I said sure. I think this may really work and I want to say thanks for brining acupuncture to light on this blog, it gave me (someone terrified of needles) enough courage to get acupuncture on my arm.
:)

Chiropractic Kent -May 16, 2013, 2:43AM

Hi Brigette…,, acupuncture is a simply great-way to relieve from pains. I for one personally understand its importance so well because I’ve seen a family member of mine mad with pain and dying for that sort of relief that only acupuncture can give for Migrane. It’s a magical treatment!

herbal supplement -September 11, 2013, 7:43AM

Loved this post. Thanks for sharing your day!

Holistic is Best -September 21, 2013, 3:55PM

Thank you for sharing – I’ve got a blog page with a lot of information for the acupuncture curious – feel free to visit!

Calley -November 24, 2013, 5:41PM

Thanks for sharing!
I am an Acupuncturist and I have seen seen many people with various health issues get very significant and positive results from Acupuncture. It truly is a magical Medicine.
And if you’re in LA and interested in trying out Acupuncture, please come see me for a treatment. : )
http://www.SeedofLifeAcupuncture.com

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