a little about my acupuncture experience (updated)

Several people asked to hear about my recent experience with acupuncture. I was delaying, because I couldn't figure out how to write about it without going into my whole medical history, my fibromyalgia, my years of mis-diagnosis, what medications and treatments I use, and so on.

I don't mind sharing any of that information, but on the other hand, I don't feel a need to write about it, either. There's a lot of health and wellness blogging, and that's great if it helps you, but it's not for me.

My approach to my health is to do what I need to do, and not focus on it any more than I have to. This is not to minimize my own issues or anyone else's. I just don't want my health issues to define me. Through my writing, I've known so many people with significant, permanent disabilities who don't let their limitations define their lives. They are models for me; I strive to do the same.

So here's the quickie version. I have fibromyalgia, which causes, among other things, tenderness, sensitivity and pain at "pressure points" or "trigger points" all over the body. It can be thought of as a cross between arthritis (which I also have in many joints) and chronic fatigue syndrome, although it's not quite either of those.

A physiotherapist (physical therapist for US readers) suggested acupuncture to "release" the trigger points. Trigger points are spots that are not receiving oxygen or blood circulation, so the muscle is shortening up, kind of like a permanent cramp. It's like a thumb-sized dead zone. The acupuncture needle would stimulate the muscle, blood would flow to the area, and the body could begin to heal that spot.

Some people get a lot of relief from this, some do not. I thought it was worth a try, especially since I have some limited insurance reimbursement for acupuncture.

I'm open to various treatments. I neither accept nor reject a potential treatment because it's called alternative or because it's called Western. I've used a variety of both Western and alternative treatments, and I'll go with whatever works. Acupuncture certainly can't hurt you, so why not try it.

I've had four sessions so far. The treatment is not always easy. Having these trigger points stimulated is... uncomfortable. I wouldn't call it painful, but it's not nothing. The needles cause involuntary movement, like twitches, but deep in the muscle. It's a strange feeling, and unpleasant.

The process is time consuming, too. You know how that goes. You have to go there, then wait, then have the treatment, then drive home. Then I need a hot epsom-salt bath for the after-effects of the treatment. So it's a big chunk of day gone.

After the bath, voila! The tenderness and pain is gone.

Then in a few days, it returns.

The therapist says that because this is a chronic condition, which I have had for many, many years, it could take a lot of intensive treatment to get long-term results. For example, if I could commit to two or three treatments a week for a few weeks, I might then be able to cut back to weekly, then monthly, then a few times a year.

But I can't afford that, and I'm not willing to commit the time. If I was really debilitated by the fibro, I would be more apt to consider it. But I've had the condition under control for many years, and in this case the treatment would seem worse than the symptoms themselves.

So that's that. I hope it's useful information for some readers. If you have or think you have fibromyalgia, I urge you to not just suck it up and live with it. Proper medication, supplements, and lifestyle changes can make an enormous difference. They have for me. And acupuncture might be worth trying.

Update. Judging from comments, I was unclear about something important. The uncomfortable part of the acupuncture is from the fibromyalgia, not the acupuncture itself.

Fibro trigger points are hyper-sensitive; the slightest pressure on them causes pain. So a direct touch by a needle is going to hurt. But the acupuncture itself wouldn't usually be painful. You don't feel the needle being inserted, and if I didn't have these trigger points, I wouldn't feel it at all.

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