Recently I have been trying to alleviate stress, and help curtail some headaches I’ve been having (mostly due to stress and tension) I’ve decided to go back to acupuncture.

Go back, you say?

Several years ago, I think around 2001-2002 I had gone to acupuncture several times to try and help some similar headaches I had been having then.

Why Acupuncture?

Well.  There’s a few reasons.  The first being, it’s better than the alternative.  Going to the traditional dcotor with headaches will almost certainly end with you face up in the MRI tunnel getting your brain scanned for over an hour.  Been there, Not fun.  Then if there IS something legit growing in your head causing you pain you get a fun phone call to inform you about it.

“Hey, Jaime…there’s a __________ growing in your head.  You need major surgery.”

Not fun either.  I would prefer to try and deal with this in a different manor before going that route.

Why not just get a good prescription for pain medicine?

I can’t really swallow large pills, due to some angry esophagus issues…inevitably the pill that I get prescribed, is as big as an almond and twice as round.  It almost always finds a way to get stuck in my throat.  Taking one pill and having it get lodged awkwardly in your throat for two hours waiting in discomfort while it slowly melts, is less fun than a headache.

If it’s tension related, why not do a massage?

I’m frightened of the unintentional wakward boner.  End of story.  Hard to enjoy a “relaxing” massage if all your focus is pushed towards trying not to relax to the point where your body rebels and goes morning wood on you in front of a stranger, who would probably be female.  Tired it once, spent WAY too much energy focusing on dead babies, and mutliated animals, and elderly people to try and other foul things to try and take my mind off the massage…ended up way more stressed thsan relaxed.

So you end up with Acupuncture.

My first experience was quite simple.  I would arrive to the office.  Lay on a padded table, and get poked with 5 pins.  One between my forefinger and thumb on each hand.  One on the top of each foot, and one RIGHT between the eyes.  The lady would put on some Art Bell sci-fi music, leave me to relax, and I’d lay on my back and enjoy the “free time”

Thirty minutes later, the lady would come back in, take the pins, out and then send me on my way.   I honestly did feel better too.

How do you KNOW it worked?

Well.  First off, as I mentioned.  I did feel better.  More relaxed, less tense, and my head wasn’t hurting.  That wasn’t really what sold me though.  What sold me was the ZAP.

We always hear about how complex our body is, and how much goes on internally with different systems, etc.   All kinds of atoms and synapses firing at tiny, tiny levels.   I never really understood this until I got poked with pins that first time. The first pins were in my feet.  I hardly felt them when they were put in.  Although once a pin is inserted, you begin to feel some low level vibrations, almost like low current flowing around them.   The next pin she put in was in my right hand, between thumb and forefinger.  The only way I can describe it is by saying it felt like putting my finger in an electrical outlet.   A very short electrical zap.    In the computer game Sim-city, one of the goals was to establish an electrical grid for your created city.  Every so often a portion of this grid would shut down, and thereby leave your city without power. It would be your job as city creator to find the broken section, replace it, and then the grid would be up and flowing again.   That’s a similar analogy as to how the pins felt.  Once they were all placed, I got shocked, and then those sub-atomic synapses were able to again fire completely.

While I don’t pretend to understand acupuncture on any kind of scientific or medical level.  I just know it felt like it was working, and when I left, I felt better…and continued to feel better for the week after.

I went three or four times, but eventually, they fact I’m a cheapskate overran the positive attributes of the acupuncture, and to avoid paying a $50 per visit fee, I stopped going.

Years passed, and when this latest bout of headaches returned, I decided to once again give acupuncture a try.

Rather than go with the same lady as I had gone with before,  I opted to try a new one.   This experience has been similar, but also far different.  Here are the details.

Most acupuncture offices are a bit fruity to begin with…it’s a form of medicine practiced by a crowd with a different attitude to them than most traditional doctors.   You never walk into a acupuncture clinic and go; “hmmmm I wonder UCLA? Cal? Dartmouth? hmmmm what college did they go to?”

All acupuncture offices are dimly lit.  I’m not sure if this is to create a relaxing, mood lit, environment, or what…but they are all lit like this.  It’s not unpleasant.

The next thing I always notice is the smell.  Acupuncture offices are big on aroma therapy.   I couldn’t even hope to name the specific aroma or blend of aromas that this places, but it’s similar to a blend of lavender, cucumbers, and elderly man dipped in Ben Gay.  Not unpleasant, if you exclude the visual of an elderly man being dipped in Ben Gay.

Acupuncture offices are also big on aural therapy.  There is always some kind of meditative music playing on the system. It reminds me of listening to Art Bell from coast to coast back in the day. Inevitably it’s some kind of space-aged music that sounds like I’ll be  instructed to “climb aboard the dream weaver train” at any moment.   There are some songs that sound like Jack Dangers needs to drop a rhythmic bass line and ill drums into it as well.   It would be quite enjoyable if I could convince my mind to stop waiting for one of the above to occur.  Other times there is mellow flamenco style guitars…I find this my music of preference as there are no associations with it to distract my brain.

The art work in my particular office is atrocious.  It looks like she has gone into the local college reject painting department, and scoured the bins for old paintings that even the artists were too embarrassed to claim.  I always hope to myself that she didn’t pay any actual money for the paintings, that they were done for her by old patients as a way of saying thank you.  I also hope she isn’t the artist behind the art, as I would lose respect for her other endeavors, like putting needles into my body.

When I first arrived at this office, after taking in my initial thoughts about the environments sights, sounds, and smells, I went to go check in.  Acupuncture offices don’t have office staff…they operate on a budget, and thus are always the person with whom you speak when entering.

Once it was my “time” to start the procedure, I had my expectations as to what the process was going to entail all based on my previous acupuncture experiences from a decade earlier.  Why do Acupuncturists where those doctoral labcoats? Always cracks me up.

We began with a short interview process about my symptoms, etc.

“How are you sleeping at night?”

“On my side?”

“No…are you sleeping?”

“oh…Yes.”

“How do you handle stress?”

“Poorly.”

“How often do you have headaches?”

“Whenever I have to leave home and go to work.”

Then I showed her where it hurt, and she made me stick out my tongue.  I have no idea what the hell she was looking for.

I made a mental note that on one of my visits I will eat fun dip before I go in.  I’m not certain what I hope to accomplish with this, or if it is entirely wise to upset someone who is about to poke me with needles.  I think it will be amusing though, and that’s all that matters.

Once I get my interrogation on symptoms I am sent to a small dimly lit room, to get comfortable.  I  am instructed to remove shoes and socks, and shirt.   Removing the shirt was a new touch for this particular practitioner.   My shoes smell like dead people, so I am always self conscious about taking them off for strangers, mostly I don’t like to upset people I do not know.  As I mentioned, this is a small room.

The first thing I notice is that if I can smell my feet and socks so clearly, and I am quite used to the odor, then my acupuncturist will certainly have a magnified experience.   It is hard to relax knowing this.   I try to find a comfortable position on the bed, which is covered with several pillows, and a circular face pillow.  I am to begin facing downward.  The bed is a standard examination bed, so it is not very wide.  I have difficulty finding a position of comfort. Arms to side, or arms up by my head?  I can’t figure out a really comfortable position, so I go with elbows bent and arms by my head like I am lying on a cliff  looking out to the horizon.

A few moments pass and the lady returns.   First off she begins by poking my neck and back with her fingers asking if certain areas are sore, or tense, and getting an idea of where the troubled spots are.  I confirm those area that are sore, and we move on.  The next things she does is douse her finger in some kind of smelly liquid (old man-ben-gay-flowers-cinnamon, you get the idea) Then she makes a bunch of marks on my neck and back.  A line here, a dab there, an ‘X’ mark in some places.  I have no idea what this means..but there are a lot of marks.   This is where I remind you that my old acupuncturist only put 5 needles into me, and one of those lit me up like a Chevy Chase on that Christmas Vacation movie.

I’ll admit I am a bit naive when it comes to things like this.  I have no idea what is or is not correct, so I never question it. I always want to make sure “I’m doing it right” or “getting the FULL experience.”  I almost roasted to death in two different sauna/spa experiences because I didn’t want to leave for fear of “ruining the experience.”

The next fifteen minutes is spent with me being turned into a human pin-cushion.  I had 20 different pins in the back of my head and neck region, 10 more in my shoulders and upper back, 6 in my lower back, 4 in each foot, and 3 in each hand. I didn’t have any of the ZAPS I had the first time, but I certainly given enough chances for it to happen.  Each pin filled me with a small anxiety attach hoping it wouldn’t jolt me.  While those jolts don’t last, they don’t feel good either, and I’d rather not have that happen.

Once all the pins were placed, It was time to relax.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to relax with 40-50 pins in you?

The first thing that happens the minute I am left alone to relax is my nose starts to itch. My fawking nose will go WEEKS without itching under normal circumstances, but the second I am filled with pins, it starts to itch like feather is banging dry humping my nose.  I can’t blow on it, twitch, crinkle, or do anything to make it not itch.   While the pins in my skin do not hurt, I CAN feel them if I flex, or tense my muscles, and even though it doesn’t hurt..it’s uncomfortable, and if I’m moving, in my mind, I  run the risk of screwing up and lessening the experience…which I CAN NOT DO!

I lay there. Face down. Trying not to move, focused on my itching nose, and waiting to board the dream weaver train.   Eventually, I do relax some, and then get thirty minutes to lay and think about the meaning of life.  I don’t ever sleep, because I’m fearful, I might go ALL THE WAY out, and somehow fall off the bed and land on my back on top of the pins…pushing them all into my body, and leaving me horribly injured, and bloody on the small room floor.

When my back has had enough time with pins, the lady comes in removes the pins, and asks me to flip over for the front.   Before inserting a number of pins into my front section, I get a funky neck rub…which actually nice, and helps some of the tenser spots.   The second round of pinning is feet, hands, and head.   One of the feet pins kind of hurts when she puts it in, and I go, “WHooooo!”

“Did you feel that one?”

“No, I just wanted to go WHooooooooo.  yes. I felt it.”

Once my front is pinned up, she leaves again and I am not free to zone off.  The music has changed from space-age to smooth jazz.

My nose again begins to itch like a mo-fo.  My hands are laying across my body like I’m King Tut. I try to move one ever so slowly to itch my nose, but I can feel the needle move when I tense my hand, so I avoid moving it any farther and try to focus on something other than my nose.

Eventually the lady comes back in and removes the pins, and I’m free to get my shirt and shoes back on.

Even though I found the process a bit tougher than my first experience, SO MANY NEEDLES! I still left feeling relaxed and less tense…which was good.  I’ve since been back one other time, and left feeling the same.  I’m going to give it one more try before making any kind of concrete adjustments…but I thought I would share the fun with the Amigos.