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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Acupuncture

It's a little like prayer.

I confess that I do not know how it works. I only know it does.

Last year, after a really terrible allergy season which included an asthma attack so bad my doctor said I was about 15 minutes from having to be admitted to the hospital, I decided I needed to be more proactive about my allergies.

I had heard about acupuncture, but I didn't believe it. I mean, it's pretty counter intuitive - for the Western European mind, anyway. Got a headache? Stick a needle above your left and right elbow and a few around your face and forehead. Listen to some New Age music while you inhale a mixture of oil of lavender and mint, rest for 30 minutes in a darkened room and, voila! No more headache.

Well, can't you accomplish the same with a cold compress to your forehead, and just skip the part with the needles in your face?

Well, for some, yes. Apparently not for others.

Acupuncture has been used for more than 2,000 years in Chinese medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments. Specific acupuncture points on the skin are connected to internal pathways that conduct energy, or qi (“chee”), and stimulating these points with a fine needle promotes the healthy flow of qi.

Modern research has suggested that acupuncture may help ease pain by altering signals among nerve cells or affecting the release of various chemicals of the central nervous system.

I found the above picture at a site for Cosmetic Acupuncture. Apparently, many people - including famous ones like Gweneth Paltrow and Madonna - use it instead of surgery or Botox injections, which seems pretty smart to me.

But how does it work? I'm not sure, but I don't know anyone else is, either.

Some in Western medicine try to dismiss its effectiveness in pain management as a 'placebo effect'. Pshaw! That's just Western arrogance. You can't explain something by dismissing it. It's not placebo effect -- it's something else.

Endorphins? A disruption of the nervous system? Stimulation of the nervous system?

Traditional physical therapy involves stuff like "strain counter-strain" techniques to try to force a muscle into relaxing. Those techniques are not that different from acupressure, which, seems to me, isn't so all-fired different from acupuncture.

All I know is that this time last year, in the 'Season of the Green Dust.' I was really, really sick. Couldn't see. Couldn't breathe.

This year, I'm not.

For one full year, I have not been on any antihistamines, no antibiotics, no eye drops, and absolutely no steroidal inhalers (Thank the Sweet Baby Jesus and all the Angels who sing Him to sleep at night!).

Does it hurt? Honestly? No. It's a little prick with a very, very thin needle. Okay, a couple of little pricks. Okay, on your face.

The idea of acupuncture hurts more than the actual puncture to your skin.

I went yesterday afternoon to see Constance, my acupuncturist, for an acupuncture session. Just a little something to help with with the Stinging Nettle and Upper Chamber natural, homeopathic stuff I'm taking.

This morning, my eyes are a wee itchy, but my sinuses and breathing are absolutely clear. I'll go again on Monday afternoon for another session. I may have a third on Wednesday but that should do it.

I don't know how this works.

I only know that it does.

You know. Like prayer.

22 comments:

Fran said...

Amen sister! I am so glad that you pursued this.

Acupuncture and other natural health practices are about *healing* and not just *curing* what ails us... they work deeply and mysteriously.

Wait, is this a theological post? Sorry!!

Well, it is true, isn't it?

I had always wanted to try acupuncture but was a bit afraid. I had an ankle injury in 1998 that was not getting better. I lived in LA at the time so there were many choices of acupuncture places for me to consider.

Well- many years, many ailments later, I believe what I do not completely understand.

Oh dear... I am getting all theological again!

Glad that this has been such a blessing for you.

(PS- my own asthma/allergy woes were largely healed by homeothopy in the early 90's. Acupuncture has provided much needed boosters along the way.)

Thrup'ny bits said...

My brother-in-law uses acupuncture on horses in his veterinary practice.

Alan

Bateau Master said...

Said with a smile:

There are even less sophisticated treatments that work wonders: http://themedguru.com/articles/gut_worms_can_prevent_asthma-86120378.html

I think I would stay with the mystery of tiny needles! : )

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

WORMS!! EWWWWW . . . I'll take a needle in the face any day.

EWWWWWW!!!!

KJ said...

It is a mystery, but a mystery that I wish my partner would pursue, because "western" pharmacological treatment for chronic pain is crap.

Just sayin'.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

My deep dark secret is I get osteopathic cranial manipulation for my sinuses when my allergies flare up.

I do NOT tell my M.D. friends this. They would think that ten years of me teaching in an osteopathic medical school swung me over to the dark side.

But I know this. There is a certain way my doc grabs my upper jaw and pulls, and my sinuses drain then and there like the Mississippi River, and the effect lasts about four to six weeks.

Missouri is the land of allergies--there are more indigenous plant species in Missouri than any other state (true fact I learned from my botany professor 30 years ago), and I know for several years now I have done without Claritin or steroids in the land of Dante's allergy Hell.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Okay - so let me be clear: This is not a slam on Western Medicine. I am deeply grateful for my yearly mammography and pap smear. If I needed a knee or hip replacement, I would get one. No problem. But, if I can keep myself healthy through other non-invasive, body-altering and disfiguring means then, by jingo, I'm going to do it.

My acupuncturist also did some deep cranial massage on me. She found a deep muscle spasm on the left side which she gently but firmly massaged out and man, did I feel better for it.

The human body is a miracle and a marvel. We ought to treat it more like that's the truth. Because, well, it is.

AutumnJoy said...

I have had amazing success with acupuncture as well - after numerous steroid injections and months of physical therapy, it was the "needle treatment" that healed my tennis elbow some years ago. Very little pain; great gain!

Muthah+ said...

I am not a health nut but accupuncture works. I lost my voice on Dec 23 and new I was not going to be able to do anything with Christmas. But my dr. put some little needles in my ears, face,hand and ankles and I was clear the next day.

They don't know how antidepressents work either, but they do.

heartofruth said...

Some of my friends have encouraged me to see a local acupuncturist. They swear by her treatments. I have some post-nasal drip from pollen right now; I wonder if this could help without the use of chemicals & drugs? I do take 2 tablespoons of local organic honey every day to condition myself to the local pollen and I think that did help a bit. Naturally, the honey tastes wonderful and it is no hardship to do this every morning. :) Last year I did not have this honey and yes, my allergies were quite bad.

Something to consider!

Ruth

Mary Sue said...

I've begun acupuncture to treat stress-induced back pain, and in the intake my 'puncturist said, "Your tongue shows you have trouble sleeping, how long has that been going on?"

I replied, "My whole life." She said, "We can work on that, too."

And it's been working, for my back pain and sleeping. I'm as surprised as anyone.

Even more surprising for me, it's covered by the insurance I get through my job at Big Ol' Hospital.

Brad Evans said...

No, it worked for you, one time.
This could have been the placebo effect, for both the small needles and talking to god.
Without controlled testing, it's not proved.
There was a controlled test involving prayer for people in the hospital; those who were prayed for got worse.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

No, Brad, it was not ONE time. Last Spring, I had five sessions. Last Fall I had three session. This Spring the difference is absolutely remarkable. Still, I'm in the second of my third session to boost my immune system.

This Spring, I've had no wheezing, some slight sneezing and have awakened two mornings with my eyes crusty. NOTHING like last year this time when I was 15 minutes away from being hospitalized.

Nothing.

That's hardly "placebo". The "proof" as they say, is right here, in this pudding.

Brad Evans said...

How about prayer?
Any limbs regrown?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Brad - I would turn off your snark meter before coming back here.

MarkBrunson said...

If it's worked for you, it worked. That's the only important thing.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Amen, Mark.

Jennifer said...

May be comin in a bit late, but wanted to respond to Brad's "placebo" comment. Brad - in the long and short run does it matter? there are 18.8 million people in the U.S. who are apparently afflicted with depression, many of which are on anti-depressent medications. However, research shows that there is an initial improvement for people who take anti-depressants (which could be due to the simple concept of a placebo effect)and after about 4 to 6 weeks this trails off and people return to their previous state. Yet, how much do pharmacuetical companys advertise that fact? Hmmm. None. In the long run, our brains are mighty powerful and if we think it works it WILL work. therefore, wouldn't you prefer your brain to want to belive in acupuncture instead of medication with a boat load of side effects and the peripheral energy drain that goes with it???? the placebo only goes to show us that if we believe we can heal.
Now about that prayer crap. Not true! Can send you some research. I am NOT religious, but believe in the power of human energy and positive energy can be projected. Lots of people simply do not know how to pray and many people actually send negative energy through prayer as the frame and focus their "prayer" instead of positive. If you project fear and doubt and worry through prayer, it won't be helpful. Learn how to pray, or please don't do it on my behalf. I don't want that negative crap flowin my way!!!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Jennifer. Positive stuff, comin' right up for you.

Brad Evans said...

"Negative Vibes"? Is this like the xtian science people and their "malicious animal magnetism" that's supposed to have caused Mary Baker Eddy so much grief?
Another "force" that can't be measured, tested or independently verified.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Brad - After reading all your comments, and seeing you comin' back every chance you get, I'm thinkin', 'the man doth protest too much.'

Keira Dawson said...

A man who is related to Medical science must believe in GOD. Because they may know the treatment of all the diseases but yet when they fail, they will tell you, "It is only GOD can help you now". They observe a lot of miracles in their career.