Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Sigh. . . .not the sad, exasperated, slightly mopey sigh.  A sigh of relief and relaxation.  That's how I feel after acupuncture (acu).

I first tried acu when I was having shoulder problems.  I swam on a club team and averaged minimum ten hours per week.  With flexibility over stability, it was only a matter of time before I was in (out and and back in and. . . ) to physical therapy.  I found an acupuncturist then, about eleven years ago.  I would go in for treatment that consisted of lying facedown on a massage table, having a dozen or so needles inserted, a heat table hovering over the needles and I would proceed to fall asleep.  I'd wake up with my muscles more relaxed and less pain. My sessions with this acupuncturist were limited as dictated by my insurance and funds at the time.
Indonesia seems like a good place and time to return to acupuncture but I never did.  I was afraid that my explanations in basic Indonesian would not prove sufficient.  When someone is sticking small sharp instruments in you, it's not the time for a miscommunication.  The second reason was that there were masseuses everywhere.  I could get an hour and a half, full body oil massage for about fifteen dollars, plus tip. It was close to my apartment. A girlfriend and I would go together for a salon day. Easy.

Now that I've returned to an English speaking country, I've returned to acupuncture.   A part of the reason I moved back was to be healthier.  Jakarta is a big dirty city.  It has some of the highest rates of pollution (land, air and sea) in the world.  There isn't anywhere to get outside for hiking, biking, etc, that's less than three hours away; and if the traffic is worse than usual, even longer.  My friends and I went out and ate and drank not only because it's fun but for lack of many other options.  Aside from travel, salon or pool days, eating and drinking are it! I moved back, bought some hiking boots, dug out my snowshoes, got in to kayaking and signed up for the gym (oh right, the gym.  A month away means I haven't been in six weeks.  Don't ask me about the math). I cut down on drinking and started to think about being healthier.

Acupuncture makes me feel good.  It can address issues that are more than skin/muscle deep.  I find that I usually sleep better and have more energy when I go to acu on a regular basis.  My mom asked me what makes it different from massage.  Now, before any of you masseuses jump down my throat, I am not taking anything away from massage. I do enjoy a good massage.  I have tried many different types, including Thai, Indian, Swedish, pressure point and several others.  I know there are great benefits to be had, and probably more than I've experienced. For me though, acu is king. It helps tackle issues like allergies, energy and headaches/migraines. When I go on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, these issues are all under control. I haven't been while I was away and I can tell.  I feel worse and my acupuncturist is using more needles per session (I'm a pincushion! but I don't mind in the least) to get back to neutral.  I feel grounded, more comfortable in my own body and relaxed. I've got a great acupuncturist, Natalie, who listens and had proven to be very competent. She knows what ongoing issues I have, asks probing questions when necessary and has a nice touch. We always chat and have a laugh.  I trust her with my care and I believe that goes a long way in my treatment.

Folks new to acupuncture are often turned off not because of direct pain, but because of sensations they falsely think is pain.  The needles used in acupuncture are thinner and lighter than the ones used for flu shots.  There shouldn't be pain when the needle is tapped in to place.  There can be an interesting sensation.  I've been told by more than one acupuncturist that I am particularly responsive to the needle.  I can give feedback on the sensations I get from different points.  Sometimes there is a warming or burning feeling, other times a tiny shock or tingle.  For the uninitiated, these sensations can be mistaken for pain. I challenge those individuals to think more carefully about what their body is actually telling them.

This has turned into quite a long blog.  I realize most of you readers will have trailed off long ago.  Positive articles about it b630-190a983a2e0d_story.html) abound as it's been show to be especially helpful to children and those in chronic pain.  Obamacare has left the option open to states to decide if they want to cover acupuncture. As community acupuncture has brought the price per treatment down (I pay $35 per 1.5 hour session), and Americans are looking for more ways to be healthy, acupuncture should rise to the forefront.


  1. That was...interesting.
    Indians are not very big acupuncture fans so I don't know very much about it but good for you!
    Where will you be during Christmas??

  2. I've often wondered about it, and never quite made my mind up about it. I think, after reading this, I will genuinely go give acupuncture a try.