The One About The Needles.

The first time I got acupuncture, I didn’t even intend to have it. You might call it an accident.  I was in Baltimore for an alumni meeting, had some spare time and treated myself to a massage.  My masseuse was about 8 months pregnant, and she was working furiously on the cement-laden knots in my back.  “Would you mind if I popped a few needles in there?” she asked me.

“Is it going to hurt?” I asked, terrified that it would.

“Probably less than if I keep doing what I’m doing,” she assured me.

I think in the end she probably put a whopping total of three needles in my back, and I can’t tell you I felt a thing. I know that the next day I felt much less ‘worked-over’ than I usually feel after a massage.

I went a few years without getting acupuncture again, but my doctor is a big believer in alternative and Eastern medicine options for minimizing pain.  When I went to her with back pain, she suggested chiropractic and acupuncture.  And my insurance at the time was willing to cover both.

I actually found a chiropractor in Santa Monica who also did acupuncture, so I went to her for a few years.  When she put the needles in my back (and sometimes on the top of my head and the bottoms of my feet…), she would usually leave a heat lamp on me for 15 minutes or so, and I would usually fall asleep.  With the needles in.  It’s a very relaxing feeling, and I think I used it as an opportunity to just simply relax.

For a host of reasons, I have moved on to a new acupuncturist and a new chiropractor, both of whom are great.  If you are looking for either service, I highly recommend both.  My chiropractor is Dr. Brian Nishimoto of Westwood Village Chiropractic.  I am sure my very high opinion of him is colored by the fact that he and his wife Karen are huge dog lovers.  But aside from that, he has done a great job with me – and I’m a very tough customer when it comes to chiropractic issues.

[Squeamish alert – I’m going to talk about acupuncture in a bit of detail here!]

My acupuncturist is Kevin Uchida, who very thoughtfully taps needles into my neck, my knees, my back, my shins, my feet, my hands and my arms.  He sort of walks around my body, tapping me here and there, as if a certain spot is going to look up and yell, “right here!  put the needle here!”  And after the initial tap, he gives them a little twist and pushes them in a little bit further.  After 5 or 6 visits, I finally got up the gumption to ask him last week how far in he really puts these needles.  “It depends on what part of the body they are going into!”  he told me.  And then he told me that they go in between 1/4 and 1/2 inch.  Eek!  Maybe I shouldn’t have asked.  Kevin also wires up some of these needles with some sort of electric stimulus device, and leaves them pulsing for 20 minutes or so in my neck and back.  My back and neck muscles need to be told who’s boss every now and then, and this does the trick.

I have fallen asleep each of the last five times with increasing numbers of needles in my back – and I have vivid and sometimes weird dreams while I’m there.  Last time, I had a needle in each hand, between my thumb and forefinger on the non-palm side – and when I woke up, both hands were tingling and sort of felt like they were levitating above the table.  What a strange feeling!

The first question anyone ever asks – and it was my first question as well – is “does it hurt?”  The answer is really no.  It feels weird, and the feeling lingers long after the needles have been removed, and sometimes there’s a strange achy feeling involved, but it’s definitely not pain.

And the next question invariably is, “does it do any good?”  I guess it depends on whether or not you think it will.  It can’t hurt, from my perspective.  I think weekly acupuncture has served as a way for me to truly relax, and if that’s all it does, that’s enough.  I think it’s done more though, so I keep going back.

I even took Madison for acupuncture about six months ago – she’s 12 and experiencing some joint pain.  She didn’t mind it at all.  She thought it was weird.  But for the same reason I won’t show you pictures of acupuncture here – you can find them if you want, but I’m squeamish about how it looks!  And Madison’s acupuncturist said I was giving her bad energy as the needles went in.  I don’t doubt it.  We’ve found other solutions for her issues.

There you have it – the one about the needles.

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