Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My First Round of Acupuncture

Disclaimer: I apologize in advance for how wordy this is. I didn't want to leave a single detail out! And none of the pictures are mine, they just were the best ones I found to go with what I was writing when I found them :)

Today I went to see an acupuncturist. I went for a variety of reasons to help me with things that I felt like my regular doctor was not able to help me with in the way I wanted her to. Nothing against her, just my own preferences. I wanted to at least explore other options before jumping into traditional medicine. And now, I'm SO glad I did!


A few weeks ago I tweeted at @CaitlinHTP, whose husband is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, asking for recommendations on finding an acupuncturist. I had no idea where to begin! She directed me here. I found someone in my area, called her, and she returned my call, informing me that she was no longer practicing. I didn't know it at the time, but I am really glad I phoned only female acupuncturists! She was able to refer me to someone else in Atlanta, so I called her referral, asked a few questions, and voila!

There were a few other things I had to do in the meantime, such as call insurance to find out if they would cover it, etc, but I'll leave that for another time (or you can ask in the comments!)

I went in today having quite literally no idea what to expect because like an idiot, I left the papers I was supposed to fill out prior to my appointment sitting on my desk at work. And herein lies part of the problem! The woman (I'm not entirely sure what to call her and I don't want to keep referring to her as "the acupuncturist" even though that is what she is…) brought me into her room – if you have ever had a massage at a smaller, local massage clinic, it was similar to that. Dimly lit, comfy chairs, large table in the middle of the room, etc. My appointment was scheduled for 2 full hours – 1 hour of intake and 1 hour-long session. I ended up staying a full 2.5 hours!

I filled out a ton of paperwork regarding my health, diet, digestive system, bodily functions, and everything in between. Just as an example of how invasive the questions were, one of them was "Do you have trouble reaching an orgasm?" Riiiiiight. After I answered all the questions on the paperwork, she started digging a little deeper, asking why I was there, asking questions about my answers to the paperwork, and genuinely getting to know me and why I was there. I didn’t look at my watch, but I'd say she spent a solid 45 minutes asking me about topics ranging from stress to my diet to my sleep schedule to digestion to physical pain and so many other things. We spent the majority of the time focusing on the reasons I was there, but she definitely made sure to touch on everything. She was thorough, patient, understanding, and explained things to me so simply. She also commented on things that could change and kind of explained why. At the time I wished she would have explained more, but in the end I would have never remembered the whys and hows so I'm grateful to just know what I should and shouldn't make an effort to do.

Then she left the room but not before explaining that I could undress, leaving certain pieces on because of what she would be doing. I started out face up and at first I thought she was taking my pulse… I found out later she was actually testing 6 pulse points. Then she had my roll over and she made pen marks on my back and did what felt like measured in between. I saw later she had something that looked like a ruler lattice. I know, technical terms. Then she put in all the needles. Some I felt a lot, some I hardly felt at all. Some I could feel the whole time I laid there and some I forgot were there. It definitely didn’t hurt, but I'm not squeamish about needles or anything.

Then, she clicked off the light and told me to sink deeper and deeper into myself and asked if I wanted music or silence. I opted for music, and then I practiced one of the breathing techniques we talked about earlier while I laid there in the dark. I have no idea how long I laid there for, but I definitely fell asleep. Not a deep hard sleep though – it just felt restorative. A little nap! She came back in and asked how I felt.

I think the hardest part for me was her asking me how I felt and if I felt anything – I kept wanting to ask how I was supposed to feel but I knew that wasn't the point so I really tried to just let my body guide me and tell me how it was feeling. That sounds hokey and ridiculous but… I did it.

We talked about potential Chinese herbs and then she did something where they were "lit" and she wanted me to tell her when they felt warm on my skin. She did those on my back and on my stomach. I wish I knew what the "real" name was but… I don’t. Maybe next time.

The last part of the treatment was performed on my stomach and wrists. She asked very specifically if I felt anything, and it was shocking how much I really felt! It was really cool to see the physical response from my body and to feel it.

And that was it! She left me to re-dress and meet her in the lobby where we talked about a liquid supplement. I'm not entirely positive I'll take it. She gave me some recommendations for things to change in my daily habits – foods to avoid, drinks to avoid, and behaviors to modify. She's also going to email me some information about meditation.

Ultimately, I loved it. I felt like it was therapy and medicine combined into one. I trusted her completely and I am really looking forward to my next session and to seeing how this changes me. It is going to take some commitment on my end (she recommended little to no dairy products…seriously?) but I am going to try my best to be serious about it. Starting by coming home and heating up the best macaroni and cheese I've ever eaten. I'll start that whole no-dairy thing tomorrow :)

I'd love to answer your questions or let you know how I got acupuncture covered by my insurance! I don't think I was intimidated before my session today, but I definitely didn’t know what to expect, so hopefully this first-hand account gives you a little piece of mind and piques your interest.

I think the best thing the acupuncturist said to me over the course of our time together was that acupuncture was not for everyone, and I would know pretty quickly if I was or wasn’t for me, and that was okay and she encouraged me to listen to my body and do what was best for me. I appreciated that more than any other piece of information she gave me.


  1. Dang, now I DEFINITELY want to go hahahah how did you get it covered by your insurance? How much was it? BTW I have cut out dairy products completely out of my diet (aside from the occasional little bit of butter or cream in something at a restaurant because it's very hard to avoid) and I feel aaaaamazing

  2. That's a neat description, thanks! I'd be interested in hearing about the food and drinks she told you to avoid. I'm not surprised by dairy - I think we (myself included) eat/drink WAY WAY WAY too much and I can tell the difference it has on my stomach when I do.

  3. @Nicole: i had to call my insurance company and request the in-network rate because there were no acupuncturist in-network in my area. it was a bear and i had to deal with quite a few people, but it finally got done and i was approved for 10 sessions! the first session (without insurance) is 140 and all sessions after are 90.

    @Stacy: she told me to avoid dairy, eating cold things (fruit, smoothies, etc) in the morning, peanuts, and apparently beer is the WORST thing you can drink so she said to stick with wine. goat's milk products are fine as is unpasteurized cheese. she also said to drink room temperature water versus ice cold water.

  4. I went to acupuncture weekly for a while and really enjoyed it. There's a community clinic in Berkeley that does it for $20 to $40 (sliding scale). Such a deal.