I've taken the plunge and tried acupuncture. This is quite significant since the thought of having needles stuck into me used to freak me out a lot. When I was heavily pregnant quite a few people suggested I try acupuncture to help bring on a quick and successful natural birth. It was the last thing I wanted to do. Try something that freaked me out when I was already in such a vulnerable state.
On my journey to find relief for chronic headaches, neck and shoulder pain, however, I decided to have dry needling done as part of a physiotherapy treatment. It was quite effective. After jumping that mental barrier by trying dry needling I became interested in acupuncture. It is meant to help with a range of problems, including migraines (which I have suffered from since I was a child), neck pain and stress. Since acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine I was concerned about having dry needling done by the physio without an understanding of the philosophies behind it. The needling relieved the muscle pain but within a few weeks the same problems had returned, which is what happened when I saw a chiropractor too.
I must add that I saw a different physio after the one who did the needling. She has helped me to better understand the posture and muscle weaknesses that I have which are causing the pain in my upper back and neck and associated headaches. This has been done without any needling, just exercises and posture awareness, along with me attending yoga regularly. I have noticed improvements from working with her but I wanted to try and explore the problem further (with a hope that I could resolve it) and thought acupuncture could be the way to do that.
A friend recommended a place to try that isn't far from me and so I went along for my first visit. I was quite optimistic about the treatment and found the therapist to be approachable, easy going and very switched on. She was happy to explain the way she practices acupuncture through using the five elements, yin and yang and herbal medicines.
After providing general information about my menstrual cycle, digestive system, migraines, and neck and shoulder pain I was surprised to find out that my symptoms all pointed towards an overactive liver that is associated with problems in my gall bladder and kidney (since they are all connected). This is all caused by an undernourished or depleted yin energy.
It was gratifying that she could provide a diagnoses of my "issues" so quickly. Frankly I was surprised to hear her diagnoses. Headaches and neck pain don't make me think of my liver. I trusted her, however, and I felt comfortable with her assessment. I was also quite excited to have some out of the box thinking about the chronic neck pain and headaches that I've been struggling to manage for about 4 years now.
The next step was to have the treatment. I admit that I was a little scared when I had to lie down on the table (which was, by the way, the most comfortable massage/treatment table that I have every laid on!). I felt underprepared somehow. It was a little chilly too so that didn't help either.
Having acupuncture is quite different from dry needling because I had needles all over my body, from my shoulders to my ankles, not just in the neck area. That doesn't mean I had hundreds of them - I think I probably had about 20 needles. The first treatment was a localised treatment to help relieve my neck and shoulder pain and headaches. I had to lie face down (a yang treatment) for 25 minutes with the needles in, which was much longer than the dry needling. The needling by the physio, comparatively, only took a few minutes. The acupuncturist left a bell right next to my right hand so that I could knock it over and get her attention if I felt freaked out at any time. She checked on me after 10 minutes to make sure I was ok too.
After I had focused on breathing deeply and relaxing I found the experience to be quite calming. I could feel some of my muscles responding to the treatment quickly. Apart from some localised stinging in a few places (which disappeared after a little while) I couldn't feel the needles. In fact it was a bit of a novelty to know that if I stood up and moved around I would have needles in me since they are so tiny it was easy to forget that they were there.
I felt a bit dehydrated after the treatment (like I do after a massage) and a lot more present in my thoughts. Rather than getting swept away with worrying about all of the things I had to do I was more focused on what I was doing and accepted that I might not get through my long list of jobs. I'm pretty sure that is a result of the treatment and I am very pleased with that.
My neck and shoulders felt relaxed too and the next day I felt my neck lengthen out and stretch in a way that it hasn't for a really long time. This happened while I was lying in bed so I didn't do anything to encourage it.
So far I am feeling quite positive about my acupuncture experience. Fingers crossed that the therapist can come through on her commitment to solve my neck pain and headaches, rather than manage it.