All About Acupuncture
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Yes I am paying people to stick needles in me. Guess what? I LIKE IT. Before I get into all about Acupuncture and how I’ve seen it help me, I want to set the stage.
August 2020 I decided to finally take the plunge and have my hormones tested. I had quit hormonal birth control about 1.5 years prior and thought I could balance them on my own. To be fair, I did really have post-birth-control-syndrome symptoms until about 6 months after stopping. I had no reason to think I could’t do it myself. I ended up finding a hormone specialist here in LA and made an appointment for the following month. Note that I actually found a OBGYN that was also a hormone specialist. I hadn’t found a gynecologist since moving, so I was able to kill two birds with one stone with this find. Additionally since she is a regular doctor’s office, she takes me insurance. This is somethings hard to find when taking a more holistic route.
I had to wait another month to do the hormone testing (I had a full hormone panel done + AMH levels drawn), as it needs to be done on the 2nd or 3rd day of your period. If you want to know more on this topic, I wrote a post here about getting your hormones tested and why I think every woman should do it. Anyway, come late October I finally got the results and it turned out that indeed, my hormones were off. My DHEA levels were over double the maximum “normal” amount.
Rewind a bit, because upon one of my initial visits with my doctor, we thought I had PCOS. Upon this visit she recommended that I see an acupuncturist. Desperate for help with what I had been struggling with for so long, I booked a consultation immediately. When I saw my doctor again, about 3 weeks later, she suggested that I still see an acupuncturist even though I didn’t have PCOS. I happily told her that I had already started seeing her recommended acupuncturist and would continue to do so.
I saw my acupuncturist weekly from October 6th - December 15th. With the start of the new year, I have only seen her once thus far, but am planning to begin ramping up again. My acupuncturist recommended that I see her weekly for 3 months, then would re-asses from there. If I could only go once a month, she recommended coming after my period, around ovulation. If I could come twice a month, she recommended also coming after ovulation / in the luteal phase before I started my period again.
Not all acupuncturists are created equal
Before I go into more detail about acupuncture, I just wanted to say that not all acupuncturists are created the same. I love mine so much and wish I could hug her neck. After COVID it is seriously one of the first things I will do. My acupuncturist is a doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine of course, but also specializes in women specifically… everything from hormone imbalances, to fertility, to pain management, and more. If you can, find someone who specializes in the field you are looking for help in.
Besides specializations, you want to find someone that caters to what you need, not just the same rigmarole for every patient. Before I even began with my acupuncturist, we had over an hour long consultation where she learned about me, my health history, and what kind of help I was looking for. Even after that, the first 15 - 20 minutes of each appointment are dedicated to me and how I’m feeling. We look at my basal body temperatures for the previous week (or more), talk about anxiety, digestion, acne, and more. She also always takes my pulse and looks at my tongue. After that she knows exactly where she is going to put the needles / how and what she is going to treat me for that day.
Does acupuncture hurt? I’m afraid of needles!
This is the most common question I have received since starting my acupuncture journey. To give you a little background on me, I have had a vasovagal response to shots, blood draws, etc since I was a child. I always lay down to get my vaccines, bloodwork done, etc.I always bring a coke and peanut butter crackers or some type of food / beverage to pop my blood sugar back up if I know I’m getting something done in advance. If I get up too fast, it is bad news as well. In high school I was in a class with a kid who got tuberculosis, so I had to get tested. The nurse rolled her eyes at me when I asked to lay down and I ended up passed out on the bathroom floor!!
That being said, I had those exact same worries! I told myself that this would help me overall and to just suck it up. The first time was the “worst” time, as I didn’t know what to expect, so my mind kind of got worked up. I just kept breathing and talking with my acupuncturist to try and put my mind at ease. As far as if it hurts, they are mostly just tiny pricks. If any needle is uncomfortable after placed, just tell your acupuncturist and they can insert it elsewhere. If you don’t tell them it isn’t a big deal, but you may get a small bruise on that location. That has only happened to me once.
Mind over matter! It is way more of a mind thing than a pain thing for me. Also the needles are very thin, which helps it not hurt as well. At most it is a twinge, but typically just a prick like feeling. Note that some areas are more sensitive than others. For example my scalp is more tough than the skin on my stomach.
What does acupuncture even do?
it basically stimulates certain nerves, which releases chemicals within the body. These chemicals stimulate the body’s natural healing capabilities which is why acupuncture is used for things like pain management, imbalances, and more. It’s is pretty much like probing your body to do what it was made to do itself, as sometimes we get stuck and need help.
What to expect when you get acupuncture:
It varies, but you should chat a bit before the service begins, so they know how to treat you. After the initial discussion, my acupuncturist leaves the room, so I can remove my pants. I lay on the bed and place a paper blanket over my underwear. She comes back in and starts to place the needles. She turns on a couple heat lamps, which help increase blood flow and relax the body. Once the needles are in and the lamps are on, she leaves the room for about 30 minutes. I typically fall asleep and get a nice, deep nap. It is relaxing, I promise! After the time is up, she removes all the needles and wipes any blood away (if any) that may have surfaced from the needle removal. If I decide to do cupping (which I discuss below), we do that afterwards.
After your first acupuncture session, you will likely be tired. This is because your body had a lot of nerve endings stimulated.. Drink a lot of water and try not to have any (or at least limit)n caffeine and alcohol this day. The night after my first acupuncture was SUCH A GOOD NIGHT OF SLEEP.
What benefits from acupuncture have I seen?
Anxiety. I always leave calm and it helps me keep my anxiety levels in check / create a homeostasis.
Digestion. Whether I’m stopped up or have seen a lot of diarrhea, there’s a needle for that. Hah! But really, I do think that this has helped my Ulcertive Colitis levels, which dropped to “normal” levels about a month or so after I began treatment.
Period. I’ve always had a period closer to 7-8 days, but about a month after I started acupuncture, my period has been a consistent 5 days! It has also become much lighter. I’ve also had a 25-26 day cycle which is great, because before acupuncture I had around a 23-24 day cycle which is too short and a sign of imbalance. Basically yes, I have seen this help balance my hormones. I have not re-tested my DHEA levels though.
Acne. Acupuncture helps your body rid itself of inflammation and stagnation. My acne has gotten better since I began, but it is more of a holistic and hormonal change versus acne specific. You can do acupuncture in your face for acne, but I haven’t done that. She treats my acne along with everything else.I typically only get one needle in my face, which is in-between my eyebrows.
There are so many more benefits, especially if you have pain! Whether it is a specific area or you are suffering from something like cancer or even just nausea from an anesthetic from surgery. I would look into acupuncture, because if it “doesn’t work” like some people say, then you literally have nothing to lose.
Does an acupuncturist take insurance?
This is a case by case basis, but I got lucky since the one I go to does accept insurance. It isn’t uncommon for more natural forms of medicine to not take insurance. Mine is actually a group of holistic doctors (naturopath, dermatologist, etc) and think they take it, because they all grouped together.
How often should you get acupuncture?
Again this is so personal and your doctor should get you recommendations. Like with anything from practicing an instrument to working out, you get what you put into it. The more frequently you can go, the faster you are likely to see results and get relief.
What about cupping?
In my recent appointments, I’ve started to get cupping done too. I showed you what my back looked like after the first time here. It is basically suctioning cups onto the area, which can help decrease inflammation and stagnation. We do this to help with my overall wellbeing, but also my acne. The whole treatment takes about 10 minutes and so far I really like it. I think it has helped my acne, but also helps my back, as I have scoliosis. It helps relieve pain!
Overall, I really like acupuncture and plan to keep doing it. I love incorporating Eastern Medicine with Western Medicine, because why not? If there is a more natural way to help or even support your body, I’m for it!! Along these lines, I also see a chiropractor around once a month and have done so for over 10 years. I helps my scoliosis and has helped me most recently with my Ulcerative Colitis.
Have you tried acupuncture? What are your thoughts? If you have and didn’t like it or didn’t see results, I’d recommend trying a different doctor out. Your body will thank you!
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