My actual adventure with acupuncture

Just about a year ago I had an almost adventure with acupuncture. I say ‘almost’ since the practitioner refused to actually give me treatment because of my feeding tube. I always intended to find another practitioner and try it again, but then I got too sick to put time or energy into anything other than survival and it just never happened.

In an effort to get rid of this stubborn headache that’s been hanging around since December I decided it was time to try acupuncture again. I was recommended to a clinic that ended up being less than five minutes from my house. Hoping to avoid a repeat experience, I laid everything out beforehand…my medical history, my feeding tube, my central line…and after talking with one of the naturopaths over the phone I had a really good feeling about it. He said that I definitely need western medicine in my life, but that he thought he would be able to help with the headaches and just my overall energy level and quality of life. And there was no expectation that just because we spoke on the phone I had to make an appointment.

Awesome! Sign me up.

So last Wednesday I went for acupuncture round one. After three hours at the hospital on Monday for an iron infusion, and just an all around bad day on Tuesday, my week was not off to a great start but I was feeling really positive about this appointment. Perhaps it would be just what I needed!

Long story short: it was really bad.

And now for the long story…

The naturopath himself was great; he was very knowledgeable and kind. He did his traditional Chinese medicine evaluation thing, no problem. Then he put the needles in, no problem. Then he dimmed the lights, put on the nature sounds music thing and left the room so I could just relax, telling me he would be back in about 15 minutes. No problem.

Oh wait, problem.

A few minutes after he left I started to feel kind of weird. And then the weird got worse and I started to feel just plain old awful. I was nauseous and despite the fact that I didn’t feel anxious, my heart was racing and pounding my chest. It was as if someone had injected me with epinephrine (a feeling I am familiar with because it has happened before). I just kept breathing deeply, listening to the nature sounds and trying to ignore how sick I felt. I wanted to curl up on my side but seeing as there were needles in the side of my head I figured that would be a bad idea. I tried closing my eyes but that just made the dizziness worse. All I kept thinking was that 15 minutes must have gone by, it must be almost over, he must be coming back any moment now.

Side note: There was a needle right in between my eyes that I could clearly see and in between the feeling sick and feeling even more sick, I kept thinking of this YouTube video that you should watch because it’s funny.

Finally he came back in and he was quite concerned by how awful I was feeling. Beforehand he had warned me that a lot of people experience significant blood pressure drops following treatment, but my blood pressure afterwards was really elevated compared to my normal. I was so happy to get out of there, but when I got back to my car I still felt so sick so I had to wait a while before I could actually drive myself home.

Yikes. That did not exactly go as well as I had hoped! And for the next four days I felt particularly symptomatic. I can’t say for sure that the acupuncture made me feel worse, but it definitely didn’t make me feel better!

So then I had to decide whether or not to go back this week for round two. On the one hand, I feel like I should give everything at least two strikes, if not three, before I rule it out. In chronic illness the two or three strikes rule is pretty common. Our bodies are so inconsistent and hard to understand even when we aren’t changing things up, so a few tries is usually necessary to untangle what’s causing what. But on the other hand, I had a really bad experience and I don’t particularly want to put myself through that again.

I hummed and hawed over this for a few days and then I remembered that my word for February is trust. Trust my gut.

The irony here is that just last week I actually had the thought “Hm. Perhaps my February word is all for naught. I don’t think I’m going to be in a situation where I need to apply it.”

Anyway, I decided to trust my gut and cancel my acupuncture appointment for this week. Maybe it would be better this week, or maybe it would be worse. I will never know, but my gut is telling me that acupuncture is not the answer for me right now and I’m going to listen. This is not to say that I won’t ever try it again, but I think my health right now is a little too unstable and I need to wait until I’ve seen the right doctors who can help me get things under control before I give it another go.

So there you have it. My actual adventure with acupuncture. It was not a positive experience but hey, at least I tried it. Plus, I got a chance to put my February word to good use.

Silver linings.

Moral of the story? Trying new things doesn’t always work out well, but I still say it’s worth a shot because sometimes it works out better than expected, instead.

And hopefully my next post about acupuncture won’t be about an ‘almost’ or an ‘actual’ adventure, but an amazing one. Or awesome. Astounding. Awe-inspiring.

Thank you

8 thoughts on “My actual adventure with acupuncture

  1. Hi, I’ve just discovered your blog and it’s amazing. I’m bulk reading so getting a reply to an old post may be a bit weird but there you go. I’ve given up on acupuncture as I’ve found that really I can only tolerate the needles in for about 5 minutes and it’s not worth travelling to an appointment for that. I always got a flare up but in between sessions my pain was marginally more controlled (and I mean marginally). However I’ve learnt several new acupuncture points to use as pressure points for when my headaches get really bad and so something good has come out of it. Acupuncture always affects the autonomic nervous system and when your body is complicated even a small affect can have a huge effect. Personally I find it most helpful when it’s just sticking a needle into trigger points (the painful lumpy bits you can get in muscles) as it can release the tension astonishingly quickly but the downside is that you need to have the trigger points creating the problems in the first place! If only we could make our health problems stick to rigidly defined criteria… Maybe one day it could be worth giving another go; you are still likely to flare up after a session but learning some extra things to help yourself might, possibly, in certain circumstances, make it worthwhile. Thank you for the support I’m receiving from reading your words

    • Thank you Miriam! I’m happy to hear you are finding support here, and also happy that you’ve gotten some good take-aways from acupuncture. Hah, rigidly defined criteria would be so excellent, but I think I’m more likely to try acupuncture again than for our health problems to fit nice criteria 😉

  2. I had acupuncture to help with muscle and joint pain. The practitioner had a holistic approach and his view was that I shouldn’t need more than three treatments at the most. Combined with his recommended exercises between sessions, I only needed two treatments for success. After this experience, I am wary of acupuncturists etc. who encourage ongoing appointments/treatments without an expected end point. There are those who genuinely want to help people and have expertise and then there are those who just want the steady income… you are wise to do your research before trying new things. Sorry that it didn’t work out for you. How scary! I think you are onto something with the idea of “hypersensitivity” of your nervous system. Good for you for following your instincts on this one. 🙂

    • I’ve heard so many success stories with acupuncture for muscle and joint pain – including now yours, too! I think if that ever became a major concern for me I might be more inclined to try it again.

  3. Dear Catherine,
    I had a similar experience to yours with acupuncture. I was trying to alleviate the terrible migraines I had at the time and their frequency and I tried acupuncture. Within seconds I felt nauseous and almost fainted. The acupuncturist was in a panic and removed the needles as quickly as she could. I had after that one of the worst migraines in my life!
    I learned then later from a medical doctor who was also an acupuncturist (but had adapted acupuncture according to your sensitivity) that traditional acupuncture is not for everybody because some people are very sensitive to it and it does more bad than good. So for me he applied needles that he used for babies!

    Take care Catherine.


    • Hi Sandy – glad to know I’m not alone here! I’m having all sorts of autonomic nervous system issues so I wouldn’t be surprised if my nervous system is just hyper-sensitive right now and that was probably part of the problem. I’ll keep the baby needles in mind!

  4. Hey Catherine,
    Thanks for sharing your latest adventure in trust and so glad you are trusting your gut. I’ve had great help from acupuncture (I have chronic fatigue) but not from every acupuncturist I’ve worked with. I’ve also had significant problems when trying new approaches many, many times. I’ve stuck it out for 9 months sometimes before giving up, so I completely agree that giving something a full try can be really appropriate given how sensitive we can be. But thank God for our guts to let some of these pass much more quickly! One thing I’ve learned is that the practitioner and their level of sensitivity, awareness, caution given my history, as well as their ability to stay curious and to educate me and go really slowly, are as important as their approach. I appreciated your sharing of your experiences with your tube in the past two posts – what a journey you’ve been on. I am wishing you continued support and trust on this sometimes roller coaster ride of an adventure!!!

    • Hi Veronique – sorry to hear about your chronic fatigue but I’m happy to know you’ve had success with acupuncture! Thank you for sharing your own experiences. I’ve talked to a lot of other chronic illness patients about this and a lot of them say the same things as you…depends on the practitioner, history, speed, approach, all of that. Wishing you support back! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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