My First Experience with Acupuncture

My first experience with acupuncture was maybe in 2002 or 2003 in a student clinic at school where I learned massage therapy. I went to experience something new for a low price and to satisfy my curiosity. What I experienced wasn’t great, and wasn’t exactly relaxing, but at the time the price was what I could afford. The students received some experience and after more than two hours, I left the clinic with a little working knowledge of what acupuncture was about.

Problems with a History

I have history of recurring back spasms dating back to my early twenties, which I attribute to a slight scoliosis in my upper spine, which is likely balanced out by compensating muscles in my lower back and hips. In either case, I am susceptible to back spasms when I am not concentrating on proper core engagement, if my core happens to be weak, or a combination of the two. Back in 2006, my fitness wasn’t what it is now, and I was “throwing my back out” at least a couple of times a year. That’s when I really found acupuncture.

I had just thrown out my back doing who knows what – I can have an episode doing the classic “bend and twist” (a huge no-no), installing an a/c unit, or doing things that are completely benign – like brushing my teeth or cleaning my ear with a Q-Tip. For real. That has happened. I’m not sure how I did it in ’06, but I was less than a year into my time at Shen Shen when it happened, and I was miserable. I couldn’t function – I had to call out from work, reschedule clients, spent entire days flat on my back because I had never found anything other than rest that would resolve my spasms. Rachel Cook suggested that acupuncture would be able to help. She was also less than a year into her time at the clinic and I took her up on it. I was desperate. My last experience with acupuncture didn’t give me any indication that it could help anything. It was just needles in skin. Energy. I let her do it because the pain was sharp, electric, constant, but changing.

Now that I’ve experienced acupuncture regularly, I’m happy to report that if I can get an acupuncture treatment as soon as possible after the first spasm, I can be back to normal in 24 hours.

The treatment was not comfortable. I was in a significant amount of pain to begin with and all of my muscles spasming – not just my lower back anymore – everything was holding tight to protect things that didn’t need to be protected. Muscles everywhere were compensating and helping so I could do simple things like turn over in my bed, or walk to the bathroom, or drive to the clinic. My muscles must have grabbed the needles hard, and I’m sure that the treatment was as difficult to administer as it was to receive.

Results: Fast and Real

I don’t remember a whole lot about that treatment, but I do remember the results. Before that treatment, I could count on roughly ten days of impaired movement, pain, and a slow release of the muscles before I felt normal again. After that treatment, I felt normal again in three days. And now that I’ve experienced acupuncture regularly, I’m happy to report that if I can get an acupuncture treatment as soon as possible (within 24 hours) after the first spasm, I can be back to normal in 24 hours. I haven’t missed a day of work due to muscle spasms since then.

Who’d have thought that strategically placed needles, coupled with intention and energy (qi) cultivated and nurtured by an experienced acupuncture practitioner could affect such change so quickly?  I like to joke with some of my clients (when I speak of the benefits of acupuncture) that I would have loved to be at that first meeting between person A and person B when A said to B, “hey uh…I have this crazy feeling that if I stuck a sharp object right here, that you might feel a lot better.”

Over the years, I’ve discovered that the best time to get acupuncture (or massage, or many of the treatments we offer at Shen Shen) is when I’m healthy and nothing is wrong, so that I am maintaining my health and balance in a proactive way, rather than attempting to fix my health in a reactive way. I’m toying with the idea of a different pricing model that will encourage patients to participate in maintaining health rather than coming in only to restore it when issues could possibly have been headed off at the pass. If you have comments, I’d love to read them, either publicly or privately.