A couple of years ago Jax wrote about her experience with acupuncture. I first went “under the needle” when I was struggling with fertility years ago. I didn’t really give it a chance because of my emotional state at the time, not because of the practitioner or the practice. When I injured my back two years ago, I went to a chiropractor for a while and she recommended acupuncture. I tried it again — with a different person — but didn’t notice a change. Again, I didn’t really give it a chance because of limited funds. Again, not because of the practitioner or the practice.

I found myself in a “use it or lose it” situation with my Flexible Spending account (an account where pre-tax salary is put aside in an account reserved for medical expenses) and decided it was time to try acupuncture again. The third times a charm, right? I went back to my “first time” acupuncturist because one of my friends is constantly singing her praises, because I remembered her as being professional, and because she is located near my house.

I should backtrack a bit and update you on my back ([very bad] pun intended). My left hip, lower back, and part of my left leg went numb last February. Really numb. It was painful to walk on it when it first happened. I sought chiropractic treatment and it helped to some extent. The numbness lessened over time, but was easily aggravated with physical activity. Not a great outcome for a belly dancer.

After about six months, I went to a back doctor (an orthopedic specialist) at Mr. Awesome’s urging. [I guess I need to stop calling him that.] Anyway, after an MRI the doctor diagnosed the problem as a perforated disk. He said it may have started as an injury, but it is also degenerative, and it fairly common in people my age. Head. Wall. People my age?! Crickey. The doc also said it could take up to two years to heal on it’s own, but since it was a small tear, he thought it would. He added that most people in my condition suffer great pain, so I should consider myself lucky that my struggle is with numbness. He wasn’t being callous or snarky, and I am indeed thankful I am not in constant physical pain. He ended our consult by advising that surgery was an option, but it should be my last option. That was about 18 months ago. The numbness has continued to improve on it’s own, but with lots of setbacks (har har har).

Back to my acupuncturist. [Wow. The jokes just keep coming. Too bad they are LAME.] My acupuncturist is Karen Knippa and she practices at Morning Star in South Austin, and I started treatment with her about four weeks ago. From the first appointment, her interactions with me have been thorough and thoughtful. She starts by asking me about all parts of my life — my physical, mental, and emotional states. And she asks me to describe changes in each, and to describe where / when they are static. After we talk, I lie on a pre-heated massage table and try not to melt into the warm fuzzy blanket. She also takes my pulse in both wrists, and checks my tongue. Then she inserts all the needles. They really do feel like tiny, brief pinpricks. She starts either the with me lying face down or face up on the table, but eventually works both my front (legs, ankles, and / or feet) and back (head, neck, and / or back). (Apparently, it’s unusual to work both front and back in a single session, but my condition calls for it.) If I tell her I’m really tense somewhere, she works on that, too because she’s also a masseuse. I can really tell where my problem area is because it hurts like the dickens when she sticks in the needles. It feels like a giant bruise is being pressed. But that feeling is temporary.

So far, I’ve been seeing Karen at least once a week, sometimes twice. I always feel lighter when I leave my appointments with Karen. And while my progress has been minimal for most of this year, I’ve been feeling change since I’ve started acupuncture. I’ve been active several times since and expected major setbacks. My numbness has been aggravated, but not nearly to the extent I’ve come to expect. And sensation is returning in areas that had become relatively insensitive. Karen’s goal is to get me back on track (last one, I swear!) so that my body can continue to heal itself. Her latest recommendation was to return to therapeutic massage. Hey, I can manage that!

My experience with acupuncture has been very positive so far. I’m sure it’s because the treatment is helping. But I’m also sure it’s because of Karen. She’s caring and compassionate, a good listener, and responds to my concerns almost immediately. She’s everything you want from a health practitioner. Yay, Karen!

What about you? Have you tried acupuncture? What was your experience like?

Featured image, acupuncture needle measured.