As part of my year-of-new adventures, I decided to try Acupuncture. I realize it’s a little silly to call something “new” that began eons and eons ago. But, it was new to me. Better late than never, right? Why not, right?
This is the kind of pep-talk needed when seeking to voluntarily have needles stuck in odd places. After all, the answer to “why not?” could be “because it involves needles, that’s why.” I don’t like needles. But who does? It’s a pretty universal aversion that starts with that very first needle prick on your one-hour old heel on your original birthday. And just gets worse as your vaccinated youth progresses.
So to intentionally ask someone – pay someone – to poke you with needles in order to relieve pain seems like an oxymoron. I have friends who swear by it, though. When my friend and fellow-adventurer suggested we try it, I was intrigued. Let’s go get our ‘chi’ cleared, she said. Why not? I answered. And what is my ‘chi’?
I related to the lyrics from Elton John’s “Rocketman,” that say, “And all the science, I don’t understand…” So I did some research.
What’s It All About?
It’s all about the ‘yin and yang.’ Those two opposing forces in your body need to be in perfect balance in order to have perfect health. Think of it like a trampoline. You’re in the backyard, bouncing side by side with your friend, and all the world is a fun circus. But start bouncing out of rhythm– one up, one down –and within no time one of you is on the ground with a broken arm and someone is in trouble.
The goal is harmony. A free-flowing river so serene it’s easy to imagine an inner-tuber enjoying a summer day just floating along. This is a clear chi. Or “life force.” I get all that. But how someone figured out this balance could be achieved by inserting hair-thin needles at strategic points is still weird to me.
Mayo Clinic says the practice stimulates nerves and muscles, so blood flow is increased and “natural painkillers” are released. Ideally, acupuncture also helps relieve stress, increases energy, and improves mental clarity. The body is prompted into taking control of its own healing. Wrap your brain around this belief and a complete power shift occurs. Suddenly, you’re in control of your own fate! Well, you still have to go to a licensed practitioner, but then it’s all you.
Human Pin Cushion
In the “what’s wrong?” list they give, I checked insomnia. I have a tendency to wake up at 3 am with the mandate to figure out the meaning of life. I guess acupuncturists hear that complaint all the time. Somehow those little needles sing a little lullaby to the system and even those who don’t come for insomnia end up sleeping better.
I also checked what I call “computer neck,” a persistent ache in my shoulders and neck from slaving over a hot computer all day. Then we went into the treatment room and I lay on my stomach on a padded massage table. The acupuncturist gently inserted about a dozen needles in my head, neck, shoulders and legs. Why the legs? Because the acupuncture points are in different areas, some very far away from the pain, she explained. Whatever. I trusted her.
Depending on your own list of woes, the needles can go in the ear, the head, the face, the back, the hands, the legs. It’s not one-needle-fits-all; it’s very individualized.
It doesn’t hurt. There’s a small sensation, but not actual pain. Strange. Once they were in place, I was left alone with my thoughts and my needles for about a half hour. Half-way through, she came back in to “manipulate” the needles, which involves jiggling them a bit. Some people have said their practitioner has “set the needles on fire,” but I can’t corroborate those stories. Mine didn’t.
Finally, she came back in, removed the needles, and I was done. Both my friend and I felt “floaty.” I’ve also heard it called, “acu land,” where you walk out of the treatment room a bit dazed and confused, in a completely chemical-free happy way. I also had a sensation that I was like one of those tribal women in Africa with rings elongating their necks. My neck felt long and straight. Like a swan. We both felt an odd urge to eat something healthy.
Now, should I ever find myself the one bouncing wildly off the trampoline of life, I’ll know just where to go for help. Ommm.
There are more than two dozen options for acupuncture in the St. Augustine area. Check them out here!
This is the second in the series of new experiences for 2016 around St. Augustine. Be sure to check out Sue’s first post on floating in a sensory depravation tank here.