Within our society, we have become accustomed to ingesting western medicine to relieve back pains, gastrointestinal problems, sports injuries, allergies, etc. For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been and will always be the body’s natural medicine. Acupuncture for me has been of great benefit for relief of a back injury I incurred in 1999 while playing football on a basketball court and tackled into a steel fence; ouch. I have been on Percocet, codeine, and any other drugs to relieve my pain.
In 2006 I began researching and studying herbal treatments, holistic medicine. During the course of studying, I fell in love with the concept of using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In 2012, I entered a 5 year doctorate program for natural medicine. While going through my program, which took a toll on my health for the first two years, I developed kidney stones, high blood pressure, diagnosed as pre-diabetic (type II), and my anxiety level increased in which I’ve had most of my life. For each one of these ailments; there is a pill for them. With those pills, came side effects. I refuse to live that way; pumping medication into my system for a quick fix. Don’t get me wrong; there are some medications that are actually needed and work for various illnesses. Being a student of natural medicine; it was in 2013 that I made the choice to see an acupuncturist, detox my system, and go natural for the first time. And it was not for pain management; instead, it was to kick an addiction ~ caffeine, coffee. I was consuming 2 and 3 pots a day, drinking Coca-Cola almost every day in place of water. To put things into perspective; here is how my first interaction with acupuncture took place:
Assessment day, waiting area was very clean, the receptionist greeted me with a warm smile as I could hear soothing music playing in the background while filling out my personal data / health information. I met with Dr. Jiang Zheng who is a Herbalist and Licensed acupuncturist in San Diego. She asked specific questions about my health, eating and sleeping habits. Being honest, in which I didn’t want to be, I spilled all the dirt on my health.
Now for the real hard questions.
I began my first series of acupuncture treatment for detoxification. At the end of my first session, I was placed on a salad and water diet for 3 weeks . . . THREE WEEKS of SALAD and WATER!!!!! I looked at her as if she has just lost her mind. “Are you serious right now?!” I ask her. Then she hit me with the BIG one – quit coffee and sodas – “cold turkey.” I think I just about lost it at that point.
It was not easy, but I did it. About 3 months later I managed to drink coffee in moderation. Water is now my best friend; I usually drink it room temperature (better for the stomach).
Now fast forward to early 2015. I started experiencing very bad back pains, upper and lower. I felt that my body was about to fall apart if I didn’t take some drastic steps to keep the inevitable from happening any sooner. I go into work on a Monday, check email, listen to phone messages, and make some phone calls. Getting up out of my chair, I felt one of the most horrific pains imaginable in my lower back (r). I go to my D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), which I’ve been seeing since 2006.
Diagnosis: (a) Thoracic back spasms ~ The most common cause of thoracic back pain appears to originate from muscular irritation or other soft tissue problems. These can arise from lack of strength, poor posture, prolonged sitting at a computer (everyday), using a backpack (military), overuse injuries (such as repetitive motion), or trauma (such as a whiplash injury caused by a car accident (3 car accidents) or as a result of a sports injury (football) and (b) Lumbago ~ Low back, sciatica pain.
As with any doctor, one of their first responsibility is to help in your recovery. He asked the big question, “Do you want me to give you something for the pain?” It took everything in me to say “no.” First priority, find alternative pain relief and a facility that would accept my health insurance.
I got on the computer and researched acupuncture clinics close by. There’s one right around the corner Acupuncture Center of La Jolla. I made my
appointment with Marie Hill, L.Ac. She performed a complete assessment, offering recommendations of treatments available. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. I cannot thank her enough. She has helped me to manage my back pain without the use of prescribed or over-the-counter medications ever since that day. She is someone that I can trust with my health and give me guidance as to what and what not to do.
Marie Hill, L.Ac.
If I’m going to be addicted to anything, it’s going to be my health and how I manage it (acupuncture + fitness + proper diet = better health). I am now at a point where I can go a few days without any pain at all. When the pain does come, it is gradual and I have exercise routines in which I can use until my next appointment.
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Acupuncture is based on the traditional Chinese theory of meridians; energy pathways that are believed to run through the body, carrying the vital force of energy called qi (chi). In this therapy, the flow of chi is controlled by the insertion of hair-thin needles at specific points of the body. Acupuncture must be performed by a trained practitioner.
The procedure causes little pain, although sometimes there may be a tingling or heavy sensation. It is well documented that acupuncture can trigger the release of endorphins and other forms of neurotransmitters that serve as the body’s natural painkillers. Along with pain-controlling benefits, acupuncture has been found effective in stroke rehabilitation, relief from nausea, and as a treatment for asthma. Acupuncture is believed to redirect energy flow and balance (between yin and yang) throughout the body, not simply to relieve immediate or chronic back pain.
No, this does not hurt. At this point I’m ready to go to sleep for the next 45 minutes.
Acupuncture treatment may include placing needles along the large intestine meridian, considered the most effective of pain-relieving channels. It is most beneficial if done on a regular basis. My treatments are normally done in series (once a week for 5 weeks).
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Side effects of acupuncture are uncommon if administered correctly. A temporary worsening of symptoms and fainting are the most common side effects reported by those that have undergone acupuncture. I personally, have found it to be a very relaxing, healing experience. I can go days without any pain. I am still in the fitness center 3 days a week but not lifting as heavy. My workouts are with light weights but with more reps and intensity; back focused stretches before each workout session.
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It is always best to consult an acupuncturist who has experience treating a wide range of types of pain/chronic pain. A qualified acupuncturist will be licensed through the state and national boards. One of the first questions that I asked my acupuncturists, Marie Hill, L.Ac; how long have you been practicing? The length of time in which an acupuncturist has been in practice will make a big difference.
What conditions can Acupuncture treat?
Acupuncture is effective in the treatment of many medical problems, including but not limited to:
- Addictions to smoking, alcohol, and drugs
- Carpal Tunnel syndrome
- Colds and flu’s
- Digestive disturbances – constipation, diarrhea, Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Emotional problems – depression, anxiety, stress
- Headaches and migraines
- Indigestion – heartburn, vomiting, morning sickness
- Musculoskeletal pain – neck, shoulders, knees, low back, wrists, elbows, etc.
- Sleep disturbances
- Tooth pain
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Gastrointestinal: diarrhea, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, reflux disease, nausea, ulcer
- Gynecologic: menstrual irregularities, PMS, menopausal symptoms, cystitis
- Immune: the common cold/flu, frequent colds, chronic bronchitis, allergy, skin conditions, sinusitis
- Infertility: non-implantation, anovulation, low sperm count or motility
- Musculoskeletal: pain of any kind (from injury, post-operative, fibromyalgia pain, headache or sinus pain, repetitive stress disorders, TMJ (jaw) pain
- Neurologic: post-stroke, vertigo, insomnia, headache, facial paralysis, neuropathy, diabetes
- Psycho/Emotional: depression, stress, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse
And others such as: chronic hepatitis, asthma, quit smoking, chronic fatigue syndrome, palliative care for cancer and so on.
Ref: (1) Acupuncture Center of La Jolla (2) The Medical Advisor (The Complete Guide to Alternative & Conventional Treatments) (3) The Merck Manual of Medical Information