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Acupuncture Success Stories: Less Pain, Greater Awareness

By Sara Calabro

Time for another edition of Acupuncture Success Stories. If you are unfamiliar with this series, read the introduction to the first installment to understand what it’s all about and why we’re doing it.

Today we hear from two women who used community acupuncture to reduce physical pain and discover greater bodily awareness.

Acupuncture Success Story #1

Patient: Vicky
Age: 27
Location: San Jose, CA
Acupuncturist: Ellie Schafer

What initially brought you to acupuncture?

I came to acupuncture after leaving my hometown to move to San Francisco. I was feeling depressed and anxious. Prior to that, I had become interested in trying acupuncture for a nerve issue I was having in my neck, down my arm and into my fingers. On top of everything, my new job was stressing me out. I decided enough was enough, and finally gave it a try.

Did your first experience with acupuncture line up with your expectations?

I went to one community acupuncture clinic that had a lot of chairs and was very bright. There, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the community, fast-paced setting. My second treatment took place at Berkeley Acupuncture Project (BAP) and I never looked back. I went weekly, up to three times a week, and even became a volunteer.

It’s important to find the right fit in a clinic and acupuncturist. If you’re trying acupuncture for the first time, give yourself plenty of time to relax and get acclimated to a space. You might even want to visit the space before your first treatment to get an idea of what to expect. Also, I always suggest trying out different acupuncturists. Fortunately, community acupuncture is an inexpensive model so you can try out multiple people. I now have my two “go-to girls” at BAP who I see religiously.

How has acupuncture helped you resolve the symptoms that initially brought you in the door?

The pain I was experiencing had been in my life for 10 years. It escalated into debilitating pain that left me awake at night, especially when I was really stressed out. After weekly acupuncture treatments, I did not get the same numbness sensations that I’d had for years. I felt less pain and sensitivity in my fingers and wrist. My right side, which was most affected, became much more flexible after acupuncture. My range of motion increased as well.

In addition, acupuncture immediately helped with my general anxiety. That led to stabilizing the depression I typically experienced a few days before my period. After weekly treatments, even my boyfriend and friends noticed a change in my mood. They said I looked healthier and seemed like an all-around less nervous person. Even in the transitionary periods, when I would usually fall apart, the weekly routine of having “me time” with my lovely, supportive acupuncturists gave me the grounding I needed.

What other benefits or side effects have you noticed from your acupuncture treatments?

My acupuncture treatments have brought awareness to what I am doing and not doing for myself. The weekly check ins and questions from my acupuncturists about how I’m feeling have made me more generally aware of my body and self. I never really learned to take care of myself—I knew how to take care of everyone but me. Learning little diet tricks or other self-care techniques changed me immensely.

How has acupuncture helped you view your physical or emotional health differently?

Acupuncture has made me see my emotional health as very connected to my physical wellbeing. I walk differently because of acupuncture—with purpose. I see that it’s possible to feel well and also to have bad days but know that all is still well in the world.

Acupuncture Success Story #2

Patient: Pauline
Age: 57
Location: Chicago, IL
Acupuncturist: Kyle Walsh

What initially brought you to acupuncture?

I sustained a wrist injury that kept me away from my yoga practice for over a year. For a while, I tried to work through it. But I couldn’t comfortably hold a downward dog or plank, so I avoided those key poses from fear of making the injury worse. Eventually, my practice dwindled to nothing.

I was being treated by a chiropractor, but the wrist just wasn’t improving. I asked my doctor to recommend a physical therapist when she suggested I try community acupuncture first. I was doubtful because I had two previous experiences with acupuncture, both of which were expensive and unsuccessful. My doctor told me that community acupuncture made treatments more accessible by reducing the cost, and that acupuncture would be helpful for my specific injury.

Did your first experience with acupuncture line up with your expectations?

The first time I met with my current acupuncturist, Kyle Walsh, wasn’t my first time with acupuncture. But compared with my earlier experiences, I was surprised. I already understood that needle insertion didn’t really hurt, but the anticipation made me uncomfortable. With Kyle, I immediately learned that needle insertion is eased by working with the breath. This should have been more obvious to me as a yogi!

I was most surprised that the community-style clinic was more effective for me than the previous clinics I had visited. Though those places had more privacy, I always had a vague concern that I was at the mercy of the practitioner because he’d have to intentionally check in on me. In the community setting, it’s comforting to have other people breathing around you. I did not expect to slip into my zone with strangers close by, but it is surprisingly easy. The quality of the rest feels very deep.

How has acupuncture helped you resolve the symptoms that initially brought you in the door?

I didn’t get, nor did I expect, immediate total relief from the first treatment. I noticed gradual improvement with my wrist, and by about the fourth month of twice-weekly treatments, I felt ready to hold a downward dog and plank steadily. My wrist is not strong enough yet to maintain a yoga practice at my former levels, but it’s definitely stabilized enough to support a light and careful home practice. It’s getting there, finally!

What other benefits or side effects have you noticed from your acupuncture treatments?

I feel more aware of subtle changes in my body. Perhaps it’s simply more focused attention, as I’m trying to monitor and report my progress to my acupuncturist. The deep relaxation experienced during the treatments helps me stay centered. I really look forward to my Saturday-morning sessions after a hard work week. It’s a way of assuring that my weekends involve quality rest.

How has acupuncture helped you view your physical or emotional health differently?

I have been a chiropractic patient for 20 years. I’ve always thought of my various pains in chiropractic terms—joints didn’t feel good until they were locked in, or my neck didn’t feel right unless it cracked into place. Acupuncture has moved me to a different perception of how my body can feel “right.”

Interested in sharing your own acupuncture success story? Send us an email at contact@acutakehealth.com. (Acupuncturists, tell your patients! If they’re selected, your name and a link to your practice/directory profile will appear with the article.)

Photo by Sara Calabro

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Comments

Starwynn Darren
Reply

This is a great series, Sara. You’re asking the right questions, and I’m glad that more and more people are giving acupuncture a chance- and loving it.

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