Stick a pin in it – 5 things I’ve learned about Acupuncture

If you had told me a year ago that I’d start routinely getting acupuncture, I would have laughed in your face. No joke, I hate needles – as do most people do. I’m still that person who has to look away and scrunch my eyes shut when getting blood drawn. But this has been a weird year for me, in terms of my health. I’m not unhealthy… I just haven’t felt well. Between loads of stress with work, pre-wedding stress, exercising to deal with stress and poor life decisions related to cute footwear and cobblestone hills in the South of Spain, I have had some issues with pain.

When my knee started giving me trouble after Spain (cute footwear is totally overrated when it comes to climbing hills, I can’t say this enough) I went to the doctor and they wanted to run all sorts of crazy tests on my back and on my knee. I ran in to someone from my karate class and he swore up and down by acupuncture.

Seriously, you have to be pretty desperate to be willing to let someone you don’t know stick needles in your kneecaps and your legs.  But I was in a lot of pain and x-rays, MRIs and EMGs are expensive, draining and unnecessary most of the time.  I know, I have injured myself enough times and spent more money on orthopedics and PT than I can count.  Three sessions of acupuncture and my knee was better.

Today I woke up with a killer kink in my neck, and I was on the fence on acupuncture. It worked on my knee, but needles in my neck? That’s another story. Halfway through the morning, I couldn’t take it anymore. I got an appointment in the afternoon and I feel like a whole new person. This is for real.

Before I started acupuncture, I always stayed away from it because I thought it was hippy-dippy and I hated needles. Now that I am fully on the bandwagon, I tend to get a lot of the same questions about what it’s like, so I thought I’d answer them here:

1. Do you feel the needles?  

Sometimes. I generally feel a slight pinch on one or two at first, but generally you don’t feel them.

2. Isn’t it weird?

Well, yeah. You’re letting someone stick needles in you and you are probably allowing this to happen because you are in pain. But after a few minutes, the weirdness goes away.

3. What does it feel like during a session?

Honestly, each of my sessions has been different. You have to sit pretty still, and I am not good at that. I also focus a lot on my breathing to calm the anxiety about the needles, which tends to put me in a meditative state.

4. How does it feel afterwards?

It’s almost like a slow release of tension. After the doctor pulls the needles out, it’s not this immediate rush of relief. It’s more like a good massage – where you feel like the tension gradually falls off after the session is done.

5. What does your doctor do during a session?

To preface this, I tend to have pinched nerves so my sessions might be different. My acupuncturist is an actual medical doctor from China, and he is really good at locating the initial sources of pain. Once he puts the needles in, he may also put some strips of cloth with herbs (kind of like a tiger balm) around the area. He also hooks the needles to a machine so that there’s a small pulse that makes the muscle contract and jump. Sometimes it’s annoying and at first it freaked me out, but it forces the tension out of the muscle.

Hope this helps! Have you ever tried acupuncture? What were your experiences like?


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