A few years ago, right around the time of my Lyme disease diagnosis, I finally decided that I didn’t want to be in pain anymore. Since late 2013, I had struggled deeply with the sudden onset of arthritis at the age of 22. One morning, I just woke up and my hands were in excruciating pain. It felt like with everything I touched, each and every tiny bone in my hand was glass shattering. For a while, I had semi-managed the pain to be able to work, but in 2016, it worsened. I decided to try something out as a last resort: acupuncture.
Managing pain prior to acupuncture
Due to my spotty past with western doctors, I knew that there was little they could do to help me with my arthritis. I couldn’t mentally or financially take another few rounds of tests, just to be told I need to see a psychologist in the end. In pain and becoming more and more hopeless each day, I decided to go to a naturopathic doctor. I will write more on this later, but he told me I should try eliminating common food sensitivities (gluten, nightshades, dairy, etc.) to reduce my inflammation.
This worked, sorta. Y’all – I was gluten-free for like three whole years. People are really sh*tty to you if you’re gluten-free but you don’t have a “real” allergy. This time period really sucked! But it allowed me to move my fingers again and I was able to exist like this – half pain – for a while. Then, all of a sudden in 2016, it got bad again. I was crying from the pain in my hands, and for the fear of what was to come. If I felt like this at 25, how was I going to feel at 55? The future can be extremely scary.
Acupuncture as a last resort
Due to my fear and honest hatred of needles, I had always dismissed acupuncture. Sure, people would throw it around, “oh have you tried acupuncture?” no Brenda I haven’t because why would I willingly have needles put in me? My mental image was literal needles in my eyeballs and I was not there for it. Not to mention the fact that Wikipedia itself calls it a pseudoscience. I didn’t want to keep going to alternative therapies, but western medicine gave me no choice.
Finally unable to find any other options, I decided to give this ol’ acupuncture thing a try. I was scared and terrified. I thought I would try it once and it would suck, and I would waste more money just to be stabbed by a bunch of needles by some hippie quack. Searching around online, however, I found one doctor with incredible ratings. Some of his patients said he helped them heal horrible pain, anxiety, and even help them with infertility. Every review was glowing, so I decided to give him a try. Hey, I’m willing to try just about anything once.
My first visit
Coming into my first visit, I was anxious, to say the least. Between being afraid of needles but also just not knowing what to expect at all, I was a pretty anxious mess in the waiting room. Fortunately, my doctor, Dr. Ping, is an incredibly jolly and welcoming person and was able to put me right at ease. I talked about all of my symptoms (fatigue, arthritis, chronic pain, anxiety, memory issues, food sensitivities, and my recent Lyme diagnosis). We chose my arthritis as the one symptom to really focus on, and he explained that it might take several visits to see results.
We got started, and he told me where the needles were going and why each time. Omg, y’all, I was seriously so jumpy with each one, but they really didn’t hurt. They are tiny needles. The ones that really freaked me out went on the palms and outside of my hands. Because I’m so sensitive there and had been poked there before, I was scared. He had a little breathing exercise with those that he gave me to do to make it easier.
Then? He left me alone for 30 minutes while I was relaxed into a deep sleep. That’s right: I fell asleep. And not just any sleep: I’m pretty sure I was drooling and snoring, the whole 9 yards. It was a little embarrassing, but holy cow was that a nice nap.
Cupping was the cherry on top
As part of my first visit, Dr. Ping set me up with some cupping on my back as well. My back pain, at the time, was the least of my worries, but I still had a ton of it. I had scoliosis as a child and have had a lifelong issue with back pain. A desk job at a computer did not help that at all. Cupping looks like it hurts, to be honest. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
After my relaxing nap, his assistant came in and had me flip over. She heated each cup up with literal fire and placed them in strategic spots on my back. At first, just like with the needles, I was extremely jumpy. Immediately, though, I liked the pull of the cups on my skin. It felt nice. She left me for about 15 minutes to be alone with my cups, and came and pulled them off. And you know what? I didn’t have back pain for the first time for as long as I could remember. It felt like I had had like a million different massages and it was amazing.
I wasn’t healed after my first visit to the acupuncturists’ office, but I did feel pretty good. My pain was still there, but I definitely saw the benefit in it right after my initial visit. If for nothing else, than for something relaxing for my anxiety and for my back. Dr. Ping was very upfront about pain. He said it was one of the hardest things to heal, particularly arthritis pain. Seeing no other way to find out than to continue, I decided to go every week as long as my budget allowed and until I got results.
After about a month, my pain started to improve. I dropped down to every other week, then to once a month, and so on. Over that time, I went from being about a 7-9 out of 10 on my pain scale 100% of the time to about 0-2 out of 10 on my pain scale, with only being in pain once or twice a month. It was amazing! Suddenly, I could do stuff I hadn’t been able to do since I got my arthritis: play guitar, knit, and even paint. I could use my hands and it didn’t feel like glass was breaking in my bones anymore. Going from a skeptic to a believer, I truly feel like I owe everything to the healing I received from my doctor.
Reasons to try acupuncture yourself
Okay, so you’ve heard my long-winded story about how acupuncture helped me, but who cares? How does that help you? The likelihood that you’re struggling with Lyme disease arthritis is fairly low, but chances might be better for the following conditions: dental pain, headaches, lower back pain, cramps, and respiratory disorders. There are even studies right now to see how effective acupuncture might be on disorders like PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Although the reasoning why acupuncture helps can’t be explained by modern science right now, there is a large interest in the range of its benefits.
My main piece of advice when looking for an acupuncturist? Make sure it’s someone who knows what they’re doing. Just like in any other profession, there’s a myriad of different types of acupuncturists out there and they are not all made equally. I chose mine after relentless researching and vetting. Not only were his reviews good, but he had all the proper training and was licensed by the state. The right doctor makes all the difference, so choose wisely.