I hate needles. Hate them. I intentionally avoid getting shots. Every time I have to get blood work done for my doctors, someone else has to take me because I hyperventilate. If you are sticking me for an IV? I hope you have had your happy pill for the day because I will be your worst nightmare. So, I got the bright idea to try acupuncture. Yes, I volunteered to be stuck with needles - over my entire body. The great thing about my brain surgery is that it prevented my Chiari from worsening. The bad thing is that I am still in pain most days. Having the hard head that I do, I usually refuse to take pain medication - which doesn't lead to being a happy person. I began researching different ways to help calm the pain without medication and many, many people recommended acupuncture. My want to not take pills outweighed my fear of needles - I made my first appointment.
Four weeks ago, I went for my first session with Katie in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. She has studied with many successful Eastern medicine and acupuncture specialists, is younger than most of my doctors and, the best part, she has treated someone with Chiari. We had a little interview before any needles were brought into the room. After we both felt comfortable, I laid face down on a massage table (I never physically saw a needle in the 1.5 hours I was there which was fantastic). I was scared to death for the first needle. I thought it would feel like a shot but it actually just felt like a pin prick! It was fantastic! Some spots where she put needles did hurt slightly more than others and with one I had an immediate (positive) reaction. I have learned that there is a spot on the top of my head that causes my sinuses to immediately drain. The draining feature isn't the most pleasant experience, but for someone who wasn't 100% sure that acupuncture would work, it affirmed that there is something to this.
The true test of the experience happened the Friday and Saturday after my first appointment. Typically, when weather systems (especially cold fronts) move into the area I usually have an immense amount of pressure and pain. With snow in the forecast for DC on Saturday, I thought I would start to have troubles on Friday - but nothing happened. Saturday as the front was moving through - I just complained about seeing snow (I hate the bad 4 letter s word) and didn't mention pain. This was the first front that hasn't caused me pain issues in over a year! There is the chance that this could just be a fluke, but I want to remain positive. If I could have this type of positive experience after one treatment, what is going to happen after the second, third, fourth and so on?
My second appointment was two weeks ago and the week that followed wasn't as successful as the first. Katie told me not to expect such shining results each week. I was in pain but I think it was "nicer pain" than what I normally experience. My third session was a week ago and I am feeling rather pain-free! I've had one bad day, but I'll take 1 over 7. I do have a nice bruise on my hand from one point that was heavily stimulated with a needle; so far, that has been the only negative side effect. My fourth session was yesterday and was different though because I was face-up on the table. This was the first time I had the opportunity to actually see the needles while they were in me. I've never clinched my eyes more. I made one mistake though: I had an itch on my nose and went to scratch it - with the arm that had needles in it. My reaction wasn't as bad as I expected; I didn't faint!
I said in the beginning I would give acupuncture 4 weeks and I think I am hooked. Pain wise, the treatments are helping. I'll find out on Thursday if they are helping balance everything internally. I have my 9 month post-surgery scan then and I am hoping for positive results.