Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Thing # 17--Get acupuncture!

As those who know me probably know, I have psoriatic arthritis, which stems from the chronic skin disease psoriasis, (which I don‘t like to advertise because it‘s kinda icky, but there you have it) which I obviously also have. They are both auto-immune diseases & they both suck.

I’ve had psoriasis since I was like 8. It took trying about a million medicines to get it under control & one memorable goo was a special, disgusting mixture that my crazy, Frank Sinatra-singing, Albert Einstein-looking dermatologist concocted. It came in a large tub & its base substance was petroleum jelly that somehow managed to get runnier & chunkier with the addition of medication. My poor parents had to slather this crap on my poor back two times a day. Oh, puberty. You sucked for this reason & many other related reasons. Luckily my psoriasis is much, much better than it used to be. Additionally, I have had psoriatic arthritis since December of 2006. Fun tidbit, I actually first noticed the beginning signs while riding the Metro in Paris! I believe we were on our way to Sacre Couer. I remember looking down at my hands (because a certain awesome guy proposed to me the night before!) & noticing that my right index finger looked swollen & felt slightly painful. After about two years of blood tests, wrong guesses, half-assed diagnoses, spreading inflammation, pain & wonkifying I asked my doctor if maybe I had psoriatic arthritis. I was right. Yaaay, self diagnosis. It was a relief to know what was wrong with me, though. At my worst I had trouble walking, could barely bend my hand enough to hold a pen or slice an onion without wanting to cry from the pain. Not good times.

I’ve been on a pretty intense medication for about 2 years or so & I hate taking it. But it’s the only thing that helps, so I do. I’ve been growing increasingly “done” with my medication for numerous reasons & have been researching alternative treatments for awhile. The other day I decided to FINALLY stop just thinking about those alternatives, so I went ahead & made an acupuncture appointment. And that appointment was today.

I met with the nice Doctor of Acupuncture in a little side room & he (clad in a Hawaiian shirt) looked over the medical sheet I had filled out & asked me questions for clarification while Chinese instrumental music played in the background. As I had heard before, he told me that the diseases I have are “hot.” In Chinese medicine things are classified as either “yin” or “yang.” I have too much yang in my body. Yang things are heat, sunshine, movement & brightness & yin things, as I’m sure you gather by now, are the opposite. (Obviously I am not in expert in such things, but this my understanding from brief research & my appointment today, so be gentle!) So in simple terms my body needs to be cooled down & the yin & yang must be realigned.

In the middle of this consultation we moved to the treatment room, as he had to remove needles from another patient. The cool thing about the place I went is that it is a community facility, which makes it a little cozier & a lot cheaper. Anyway, so he attended to the other patient & a few minutes later we continued our chat. I was asked more probing questions, such as the types of drinks I like, the color of my urine, the physicality of my poop & other such things. There’s nothing like talking to a man you hardly know about your feces & menstrual blood, that’s for sure.

Next, he took my hand in one of his hands, palm-to-palm, & took my pulse in my wrist with his other hand. He made a few confused noises & faces & moved to my other wrist. More confused faces.
“Here we go,” I thought.
“Hmm,” he said. “May I see your tongue?”

So I stuck my tongue out & he took a look. Then he started probing acupressure points on my knees & ankles, asking if anything was tender. When I told him no, nothing was tender at all, he said, “Well, maybe I’m wrong.”

At this point I thought, “Oh, great. I’m a freak of Chinese medicine.”

Turns out that both my pulse & the look of my tongue don’t jive with having too much yang in my blood. He pressed on my knees & ankles thinking that maybe I have more of a dampness problem which I guess can bring about similar symptoms, but nope. If I had dampness issues the acupressure points in my knees & ankles would have been sensitive. After he explained this to me in a slightly perplexed way the Doctor decided to give me a general balancing acupuncture treatment to start. He told me that he would do some more research on my diseases & would come up with a more comprehensive treatment for my next appointment.

Yes!! I can stump anyone in the medical field!

Finally it was time to get some needles jammed up in this piece.

After he showed me the needles he would use & explained their sterility & usage to me, the chair I was sitting in was put into a reclining position. He cleaned with alcohol the spots on my body in which he would insert needles (at which point I thought, “Geez Louise I’m going to look like a porcupine”) & then it was time to go!

Of course the first one inserted went directly between my eyes. It actually wasn’t bad; a pinch, then warmth, a tiny bit of tingliness & then I felt almost nothing (for a few minutes, at least). He continued to place needles along my body. I barely felt most of them as they were being inserted--many felt like the tiniest of pinpricks, but a few of them were a little more painful--particularly in my left hand. I almost felt something like a pop, followed by intense warmth that then dulled to a sort of droning, if that makes any sense.

After he was done placing needles in my hands, forearms, knees, calves, feet & toes (& don’t forget that forehead needle!), I was draped in sheer shawls, the lights were dimmed & I was left to relax for maybe twenty to thirty minutes(which is probably the number of needles I had in me). A few times I opened my eyes & let me tell you, that was strange! The best way to describe it is to say that when I opened my eyes I saw slight waves, almost like the heat waves that you see coming off the pavement on a hot summer day. Or those waves that you would see when watching Wayne's World & they go, "Do-do-do-do,do-do-do-do."(Bueller?) About this time is when the needle in my forehead started to form a dull & localized headache. Which I still have, by the way.

So, I laid back & relaxed for a bit, drifting on the edge of sleep. Soon enough the Doctor came back in & removed the needles. I’ve gotta say, I was surprisingly out of whack. The doctor asked how I felt & when I answered with, “Kinda….” & shook my hands all around he filled in with “spacey?” which absolutely fit the bill. I was told I would feel spacey & a little tired today, but would probably feel more slight affects from the acupuncture tomorrow. In addition to my spaciness, I’ve got that lovely lingering headache & my left arm is a little…sore, I guess you could say. Holy Energy, Batman!

There you have it! I’m glad I’ve finally tried acupuncture & I’m really curious as to how I’ll feel tomorrow. Cool things, dudes. And I’m looking forward to my next appointment in a week!

Oh, & guys? As in, hey, male readers? I discovered while looking at the acupuncture posters on the walls that there is a very special acupuncture point located directly on your grundle. Just thought you should know.


  1. Interesting. Now I'll have an idea as to how I might feel when I try it.

  2. I'm sure it varies person to person, ailment to ailment, but yeah!

  3. Someone asked me a few questions on Facebook, so I figured I'd post my response here, too:

    The next day: I just got up so I'm not quite sure how I feel yet. While he said I'll feel stuff immediately, he also said that acupuncture isn't a magic cure--like anything, it won't happen overnight. He said that because this has been building up in my body since childhood it could take a year, but that acupuncture will totally help my condition a lot. My headache is gone, so that's good!
    Most acupuncture places do not take insurance because most insurances don't cover acupuncture. That said, most acupuncture places will give you a printout that you can submit to your insurance for reimbursement if they cover alternative medicine--so, it all depends. I went to a community acupuncture, so it is much, much cheaper. I paid $10 for the initial consultation & going over my medical history & then they have a sliding scale suggestion sheet for acupuncture treatments. They suggest anywhere from $15-$40 per treatment. Which is actually insanely awesome, because other places I looked at were at least $100/hour. Plus the way it's done in a community acupuncture is a little more traditional.