How to Heal: Part 1b – Body; Acupuncture

In Part 1a, I told you all about
my own personal experiences with chiropractic
adjustments,
now I will tell you how I fared with acupuncture treatments
for the same pinched nerve in my shoulder.

 

My father would see Dr. Han 3 times a week and it seemed like every night he had a funny story about Dr. Han’s bedside manner or his consistent use of the 3rd person.  All I knew was, you didn’t mess with Dr. Han.  So when I wanted to see him for my pinched nerve two years ago, I didn’t because I knew it was a commitment that I was not able to make.  From all the stories I’ve heard about Dr. Han, it was much easier to get out of the Chiropractor’s recommended treatment schedule than his.  So that’s just what I did.  Until one morning I was overcome with pain and I knew I had to try acupuncture.

When I walked into the waiting room I was brought back to my father years ago writing a letter for Dr. Han, to the insurance companies.  After years of working as a steamfitter, my father was left with terrible carpal tunnel in his wrist, his only option was surgery with a 50/50% chance of being able to return to regular work.  That’s when he started seeing Dr. Han, he went for a long time but he never had to have that surgery and he never stopped working.  The out of pocket cost was staggering, even at Dr Han’s low price of $45/visit.  Insurance companies don’t cover acupuncture, just like they didn’t covered chiropractoric in the past.  They would rather you be drugged up and cut into which costs well into the thousands and leaves you missing work and permanently scarred at the very least.  Dr. Han’s office was wallpapered with letters from his patients each telling their miraculous story of how no other Western practice had brought them relief, how they were cured with nothing more than acupuncture.  Hundreds of people pleading with the insurance companies to consider the benefit of non-invasive healing practices.  All fallen on deaf ears.

I knew that acupuncture could help.
I knew Dr. Han was a competent doctor,
despite his lack of manners (cultural differences most likely).
I knew it would take time and so I committed to 2 months.

I didn’t find Dr. Han to be rude, I found him to be a sweet and gentile old man.  What I found he lacked was communication.  My new patient paperwork questioned which medications I was taking, what doctors I was seeing, and what my symptoms were (I included an increasingly alarming pain in my toe for the hell of it) .  When I saw Dr Han he asked me where and how it hurt about a dozen times.  He didn’t check my pulse or tongue like I had read on the internet.

When I could hear him opening the package of needles I shut my eyes and focused on my breathing, I was aiming for 5 counts. 

*OUCH!* 

Dr. Han stuck the first needle right where I said the pain originates, then tapped it a few times.

*Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!*

Now, I may be a baby with Tom or my Mom but I am a very good patient and I keep my mouth shut!  (When I was 12 my dentist thought I’d be able to withstand getting a filling without novocaine; we tried, I couldn’t – but that was probably the only time I told a doctor they were hurting me.)  So I laid there as he stuck needle after needle in all the areas he had rubbed the cool, soft cotton dipped in alcohol just moments before.

“I thought acupuncture didn’t hurt!!” I thought to myself as I breathed only 3 count breaths as any more air inside of me made the needles dig in deeper.  He put the first needle in my foot – HOLY SHIT!!!!  Pain?  Ugh!  As he put the remaining two needles in my foot I had to say something,

“Um, that one in my foot, it really hurts, is that okay?”
“That is a good sign honey.”

He set the timer, shut the light and he was gone.  I thought this was a perfect time to practice being present.  I had no idea how long that timer was set for, I couldn’t’ move and I was in a lot of pain at almost every needle point.

Breath in – One, two, three, fo – ouch.
Out – One, two, three, four…
Listen to the sounds, fill your body with a warm light, breath out the dark, negative pain…

The timer ticked away as I tried not to name sounds, tried not to think of anything, just fill my mind with space (I’m sure my big brother would have something smart to say along the lines of my head having nothing but space in it haha) -{see, there I go again with my mind wondering!}

I wonder when that timer is going to go off.  I bet it scares me and I jump when it does.  Try to focus on the timer, you could probably anticipate when it is about to ding.  I really don’t want to be scared with all these needles in me.  What the heck, my foot hurts like hell!?!

*DING!*

Dr. Han promptly returned and I envisioned the pain being taken away with the needles, no such luck.  He plucked each needle out and I was saddened with the amount of pain I was still feeling at each insertion site.  I gingerly got dressed and lurched up to reception.  “He would like to see you Wednesday and Friday.”  After some back and forth with our schedules I asked if it were possible for me to come Thursday as Wednesday wasn’t good.  “Oh no, he won’t want you to miss.  You must come.”  Hearing my dad say this for 10 years, I already expected that so I didn’t argue, I made an early appointment for Wednesday morning.

As we were walking out Tom asked, “How you feeling?”

“I don’t know.  Weird, like… I don’t know, like I’m on drugs, my body feels … weird.”

We rode the elevator and walked out to the car while I tried to figure out what I was feeling.  Euphoric?  No.  Lethargic?  A little.  Numb? Maybe.   As I went to get into the Jeep, my leg wouldn’t raise up like my brain wanted it to.  Now this was weird!  I tried again to no avail.  “I can’t get in!  My leg won’t go!  WTF?!?”  I laughed but it was really odd to feel my brain telling my body to move and there be no response.  Freaky.  Finally I was able to get myself up and in but very awkwardly.  I remained in this stupor the whole way home, I asked Tom to stop at CVS for me but when we got there I asked him if I could stay in the car.  It was so bizarre!

I went back to Dr Han that Wednesday and felt much better, less pain and less weirdness afterwards, although I did still sit in my car for a good 10 minutes before I felt comfortable enough to drive and even then was wishing I didn’t have to.  Friday’s appointment fell somewhere between the two, a little pain but less than the first time and still a lot of weirdness afterwards.  I guess it would take me about 3-4 hours to get back to normal after those first few visits.

That was April, fast forward 4 months and the pain in my foot was totally gone but I was still skeptical about my shoulder.  It didn’t hurt me anymore but I still experienced  considerable numbness.  And I was spending so much money!  Upwards of $2000 at that point.  At the end of August I told Dr. Han I had to stop coming.  “No, you cannot, you are not healed yet.  Dr. Han heal you.  You don’t stop yet, so close, you don’t stop.”  Ugh, “so close”?  What does that mean?  How close?  I didn’t feel close.  Matter of fact, since I started with a new yoga studio I was feeling my shoulder more than ever lately.  Is it even working??  What if I quit too soon and waste all this money?  But how long am I willing to go?  I decided to continue my treatments.  At the end of September I told him I couldn’t come anymore, “this time I really mean it, I am broke!”  Dr, Han studied my chart and said “Acupuncture take time.  You not cured.  I cure you, you never come back. ”  After asking for some more clarification he said, “a couple more weeks”.  About 5 minutes after he had left the room, he came back and turned the light on, “October 12th, your last day.  You come ’til October 12 you no come after that, you be done then.”  Well, how could I quit now?  I continued to see Dr Han until October 12th when he gave me a big hug and sent me on my way.

$3280 later and my shoulder is, as far as I can tell, healed.  I do still experience some sort of sensation that I can’t quite say is numbness, it’s certainly not pain.  I have no pain.  I also have absolutely no pain in my toe.  Although that was a secondary complaint when I first went to Dr. Han, it had been worrying me for years as it was getting worse and making it imposable for me to bend my toe in either direction without severe pain – I couldn’t so much as even touch the top of my toe without aggravating the pain.  It bears repeating, that pain is completely gone.

The rundown of my experiences with acupuncture treatment
and my personal conclusions:

[list type=”arrow”]

  • Feeling as though chiropractic wasn’t going to help me and with the success my Dad had with acupuncture, I committed to acupuncture despite the cost.
  • I received way more treatments than I ever thought.  Although relief was quick to come, complete relief of symptoms took the entire length of treatment.
  • Even after treatments were stopped, I think I continued to heal.  I felt even better after another week.
  • I recommend acupuncture to anyone suffering from chronic pain.
    A true practitioner, my doctor held the 1st RI state license for Acupuncture – he says he brought acupuncture to the States and vowed to work until insurance companies agreed to cover treatments.  I know he was traditionally trained and not just an American trained by other Americans; I feel better being treated by a person who grew up in a holistic environment and is committed to non-invasive healing practices, and unfortunately, many Americans are not.
  • I consider myself healed.
    If in the future my pain returns or I have new pain, I will seek acupuncture.
    (Or rolfing just to ease my curiosity of the practice and to tell you all about it!)[/list]

 

[button color=”#eeeddc” background=”#315e62″ size=”large” src=” http://lifebyyourownrules.com/how-to-heal-part-2-mind/”%5DComing Soon: Part 2: Heal Your Mind[/button]

 

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