Friday, December 15, 2006

An Encounter with Acupuncture

Yesterday's acupuncture treatment had an unexpected twist at the end. It was just so totally different from what I had previously experienced.

I went to see my doctor Neil, the physiatrist, yesterday. In addition to manipulation he also does acupuncture as a way of dealing with physical problems. He was trained at UCLA, one of the best schools in the country for acupuncture.

For my particular case, he had advocated scalp acupuncture, noting that there are definite points in the brain that connect to all other parts of the body. He said he had actually done a lot of study in preparation for my appointment. Having received acupuncture from two different practitioners, I was familiar with the preparation of placing the needles. In my case there were 3 in each leg, 3 in each of my lower arms and hands, and 11 in my head, mostly on the right. He explained what he was doing as he inserted each needle accompanied by "a little pinch". I asked him to turn off the hideous fluorescent lights before leaving the room.

The idea is that you rest undisturbed with the needles in the various points of your body. You actually fall into an almost trance-like state, much as in meditation.

I was totally unprepared for what happened next. After I had rested with the needles for proably a half hour, an assistant I had never met entered the room, switched on the hideous lights and proceeded to remove all 23 needles. As she left the room, she announced, "You're done now."

WHOA! I had been used to acupuncturists trained in the Chinese tradition of monitoring various pulses before, during, and after treatment. There was intentionally nothing abrupt, allowing the patient to gradually return to full consciousness and re-enter the world.

I made it clear that I expected at least a closing discussion with my doctor before being told to pay up and go home. So I sat and stewed and sat and fumed and sat some more.

Finally as I was leaving a message for the doctor that I was not happy and I expected a phone call, he appeared, looking rushed and guilty. He had gotten tied up with another patient who had an unending stream of questions.

I screamed about the lights and then suggested he bring in a desk lamp for this purpose since the overhead lights are simply not compatible with acupuncture. He agreed. We talked about the differences between his style of acupuncture and typical Chinese acupuncture that is so geared to pulses.

We talked about what was next on his agenda for treating me. By this time I was feeling better. But I noted that getting angry right after an acupuncture treatment takes a lot of energy that I didn't have.

As I shook Neil's hand upon leaving, I realized that we have a good working relationship and that there is a lot of ground we still need to cover together. Yesterday's visit was just not exactly what I had planned. I will be interested to see what comes of it, as the results of acupuncture often play out gradually over the next few days after treatment.

(If you are not a believer in this form of treatment, you are probably saying "And why would any sane person let someone place 23 needles in her body and leave them there for 30 minutes?" But, on the other hand, if you are a believer, you understand perfectly...)

15 Comments:

Blogger bettyjoan said...

I would love to talk to you sometime about your acupuncture experiences--I am definitely considering it, as I have a few pesky health problems that traditional medicine can't seem to do much with. Thanks for the post to get my mind churning about this!

1:43 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

BJ -- Feel free to contact me at barbara.diskin@verizon.net. I have a lot of ideas about alternative medicine and I swear it works!

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would really like to try acupuncture some time because traditional medicine irks me sometimes. I'm scared to death of needles though!

It's really only a pinch?

2:21 PM  
Blogger wharman said...

My housemate gets the needles once a week. I am intrigued, but so far have been too chicken and cheap to try it out.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Jose M. Torres said...

Barbara,

I am a CA Licensed Acupuncturist, and I recieve daily Google Alerts related to the topic of Acupuncture. As I read your blog, I was not at all surprised at the treatment that you experienced.

The truth is that that doctor at UCLA, which is by the way my alma mater, was more than likely trained in the practice Acupuncture during a an intense 200 hour course over several days.
MD's are only required a certain amount of hours in order to be able to use Acupuncture as part of their scope of practice. Compare that to a Master of Traditional Oriental Medicine (MTOM), which is awarded upon successful completion of 2110 hours of classroom instruction and 950 hours of clinical practice.

The point is that MD's are really trained to spend the least amount of time possible with one patient. Many MD's I've spoke with think that massage therapy is a waste of their time.

There is a certain institution associated with UCLA whose mission it is to change the current state of Complimentary Medicine.

See; UCLA Center for East West Medicine.
www.cewm.med.ucla.edu


Any questions, thoughts or suggestions are much appreciated.

Best,

Jose M. Torres, L.Ac.
GoodMedicine@QiHuangYiDao.com
www.QiHuangYiDao.com

2:36 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

GoldenSilence -- I was the kid who screamed about getting a shot. Believe me, when I say just a pinch I mean it. You almost look forward to the next needle for some really weird reason. And once the needle is set, it has a most pleasant sensation, not at all uncomfortable.

Wendy -- It would be pricy at once a week. But I think once a month is fairly reasonable. The sad truth is that my insurance (GEHA) won't pay a dime to a licensed acupuncturist, but will pay part of the cost of an MD doing the treatment.

Jose -- I am most intrigued by your comments. I'm thinking of trying a really good traditional acupuncturist who is some distance from me. But I think it may be well worth the drive to experience the full breadth of what acupuncture can offer. It seems the Chinese figured this out a long time before we did...

2:50 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Much like bettyjoan and golden silence, I've been thinking about it. I have a number of quirks not fixed by Western medicine and I appreciate hearing of your experience, even if this wasn't the best of treatments.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barbara, I have tried accupuncture three times over the last ten years. It was only this last time that I really felt like it was beneficial. I would follow follow my accupuncturist (Is that a word?) into active combat for treatment! She doesnt practice traditional chinese medicine methodologies (TCM) but another called the Five paths (or something like that, I cant remember exactly). If you want I can send you her info. She is in Silver Spring
--Erika

4:53 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

It might even be Mary Rieger. Five element acupuncture is more holistic than TCM. My guess is that your doctor is doing acupuncture like they do in China. No bedside manner!

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes you gotta just tell those doctors! Argh, I don't blame you for being upset and I am glad you spoke your mind!

12:21 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Very interesting...My husband took the 1 year course that certifies Chiropractors in Canada to practice. Our massage therapist went to sri Lanka to study intensely for 6 weeks and she said they used bamboo needles!
In their experience, they have much success with frozen shoulder and knee problems. I have had it and although there wasn't that much change in my conditions, I found it very relaxing to the whole body, especially when combined at the same appointment with massage first. I believe in it buyt I don't actually like having it! Imagine that! I can get it free in my own house, I do 6 needles a day for insulin and I shy away from it.

BTW: We dim the lights and let people get up when they feel ready after the needles are out. It is important with massage as well. We play music if wanted.

I was just aboiut to give it another try for chronic pain so you've encouraged me!

Good luck with your treatments.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- You should give it a try.

Erika -- I would love to find out the name of your acupunturist. You can send it to me at barbara.diskin@verizon.net.

Reya -- If you are right about Chinese acupuncture, then I rather like the adaptation in this country that includes soft light, music, and monitoring of pulses.

OL -- This was definitely a time I was glad I spoke my mind. It all turned out OK in the end.

MOI -- I understand why a diabetic might not be too thrilled at the prospect of yet another needle. I'm still really intrigued at the effect of the needles though. It sounds like you have so many wonderful forms of alternative medicine right in your own home!

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, wonderful wonderful acupuncture! My acupuncturist tells me to breathe out as she inserts the needles and I feel almost nothing, certainly not any pain. She checks me once during the 20 minutes and then talks quietly as she removes the needles. There are never any harsh lights and there's always soft music. An area massage is part of the treatment. I go to her for sciatica pain and after having tried therapy, a chiropracter, and heavy duty drugs over the years, I've come to rely on only the acupuncturist for persistent relief.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

This is me posting a comment for Pauline because Beta is being difficult for her:

Oh, wonderful wonderful acupuncture! My acupuncturist tells me to breathe out as she inserts the needles and I feel almost nothing, certainly not any pain. She checks me once during the 20 minutes and then talks quietly as she removes the needles. There are never any harsh lights and there's always soft music. An area massage is part of the treatment. I go to her for sciatica pain and after having tried therapy, a chiropracter, and heavy duty drugs over the years, I've come to rely on only the acupuncturist for persistent relief.

I have been going regularly to this woman for the past two years and know from experience that acupuncture can be a beneficial health treatment. EVERYTHING feels better after I've been to see her!

Pauline

And I say, THIS IS THE ACUPUNCTURE EXPERIENCE I WANT!

Barbara

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Debra Arko said...

Successful long term weight loss is incredibly difficult for most people to achieve. Many people have tried diets that may cause some weight loss and then they gain back the weight they lost plus some additional pounds. This is why more and more, people are turning to acupuncture weight loss treatments...http://www.acudocdeb.com/Acupuncture.htm

1:16 AM  

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