My family gathered together last week to celebrate a wedding. I was excited to see my brother who has kids around the same age as my own because the last time we saw them a little over 3 years ago they had so much fun together. When I first saw my brother he looked exhausted and he was uncharacteristically quiet. It took me awhile to realize it was because he was in quite a bit of pain. He did a pretty good job of pushing through and hiding it but I saw him wince several times. On the second to last day before he went home we got to talking about what was going on, a chronic pain that was at times very debilitating was affecting pretty much every aspect of his life. Many days he couldn’t even get his socks on without help and while he was skiing still it wasn’t much fun and many times he could hardly walk after. The pain had been going on for over 3 years. He was hesitant to go to a doctor and he didn’t really know what else to do. His wife was massaging the area and feeding him nutritious foods but it was barely taking the edge off and he had kind of resigned himself to this just being the way it was going to be.
I offered acupuncture, my mom in her gentle pushy manner basically told him to sit down and do it. He was nervous about the needles, even swabbing the points seemed to send him through an anticipatory roof. He howled in pain when I gently put the needles in, one point in particular was really intense for him. I chuckled trying to lighten the mood telling him that many people who do acupuncture regularly would have said to that intense point, “oh I must have really needed that one!” The humor was lost on him in the moment so I also explained the points closer to the hands and feet is where the nervous system changes from motor to sensory so by needling these points it signals to the brain to make a change faster than simply putting needles in to the affected area. . It wasn’t quite a relaxing environment, kids running around, people eating dinner etc. He called to have the one point adjusted and I did and he felt some relief. Twenty minutes later I took the needles out. His face didn’t look so tired and for the first time all weekend he was the chatterbox he usually is. “I don’t know what you did but my hip feels a lot looser.” and “That one point really hurt but I kind of want you to do it again.” His movements were a little more graceful and his posture had improved.
We saw him again the next day and he was feeling much better. He was apprehensive about doing another treatment because of the intensity of the day before. I explained that in Chinese Medicine pain is called an obstruction. The points felt so sensitive because they had been blocked for so long. That powerful sensation he felt is called “da qi” in Chinese. It means the arrival of qi. Basically energetically blood and qi flow were not moving which was causing a build up of heat and pain in the hip, low back and groin. When da qi happened it opened the blocked channels allowing the body to use its resources to heal bringing fresh blood flow to the area. Finally after a few hours he mustered up the courage for another treatment. It was very similar to the one before. He was bracing himself for that strong sensation again and he barely felt it. He was able to relax much more this treatment and when he went to leave it was the first time in I can’t even remember that he was able to stand up straight. His movements were fluid instead of guarded and cautious.
It was an incredible example of the healing power of acupuncture. Acupuncture is simple medicine, many times referred to as ‘barefoot medicine” (I was in my socks for both treatments). Our bodies are quite good at keeping us alive but many times the efficiency of this skill leaves us functioning less than optimally. Acupuncture is like a reset to say ok we don’t have to just get by we can tap into our healing reserves and thrive. This is why people notice a boost in energy, a better night’s sleep, better digestion, better mood etc after a treatment regardless of what their main complaint is.
I wanted to share this story because pain is especially isolating. Three years is a long time to barely get by, be exhausted by pain and not know what is wrong or where to go to not just get pain relief but allow for the body to heal and get back to an active lifestyle that he enjoys. The thing is, is that acupuncture is not an either/or. Acupuncture is a yes and medicine. You don’t have to choose between acupuncture and western medicine practices. You don’t even have to choose between acupuncture and other modalities like chiropractic, massage, etc. Many times incorporating acupuncture into your healing plan is the missing piece to get off whatever plateau you’ve been on in your healing. And its important to note that acupuncture was intended to be a medicine of prevention. You don’t have to wait for something to go wrong to benefit. Many people use acupuncture as a way to manage life’s stressors on a weekly, monthly or seasonal routine.
Has acupuncture helped you? I would love to hear your stories too. Share them here or on facebook. 🙂