Believe It or Not
Discover one woman’s journey with acupuncture, then try it yourself
A River Named Qi Runs Through YouAcupuncture Opens a World of Mysterious, Amazing Medicine
By Tisha Crews Keller
I’ve never been one for needles. Just the thought of a shot, a finger prick or even a second set of earring holes makes me break out in an anxious sweat. So the acupuncture table is the last place you would be likely to find me. Or so I thought.
Being a devoted get-every-annual-checkup patient of Western medicine, I find particular confidence in my physician’s experience and training – and in the long list of capital letters after her name. So when her simple tonic of “try again in three months” was the only advice she offered for my infertility, I was aghast and disheartened.
A colleague mentioned acupuncture and how it often is regarded as a noninvasive, productive treatment for fertility woes. And I thought, are you kidding? Acupuncture involves needles, mysterious pressure points and belief in mystical powers, right? But, as futility tends to do, I was inspired to give it a try, with my empty womb and nothing to lose.
My first session with Min Tian, A.P. (her long list of professional designations includes: M.D., China, and Ph.D., Biochemistry, Oxford), was 60 minutes or so of the most in-depth evaluation imaginable. Her questions ran the gamut from standard medical queries (“Do you have high blood pressure?”) to the seemingly immaterial, such as “Do you have a dog in the house?” and “Do you crave chocolate?” I soon learned that in Chinese medicine, the internal and external environments both affect the body’s health. She asked me, “Do you want to try the needles today?” I nodded, anxiety setting in.
I lay down with one pillow under my head and one under my knees, and braced for the inevitable pain. Tian did a pulse diagnosis on both my wrists – the complex technique of assessing “energy” using three fingertips on the radial pulse – and looked at my outstretched tongue to decide where and how she would treat me. As she gently pinched my skin, I felt a brief, mosquito-like sting, which evaporated almost immediately. At many locations, I felt nothing at all. (Not surprising, since about 40 acupuncture needles can fit into the hypodermic needle used for a typical blood donation.) Tian then ran her hand lightly across all the needles and told me to relax and concentrate on any of them that I could feel. I spent the next 45 minutes alternating between sleep and meditation on various seconds-long twinges. I wondered how lying there listening to Asian music and sleeping could be treatment, but it was one I could live with.
It turns out that acupuncture works whether you believe in the treatment or not. While researchers aren’t certain how, proponents of acupuncture say it encourages the body to heal itself and improve function by stimulating a network of energy channels (meridians) that run through and across the entire human body. This energy, or qi (pronounced “chee”), nourishes and irrigates tissues. An obstruction in qi can, like a dam, cause blockages that disrupt the healthy flow of energy to vital organs.
Amazingly, acupuncture points may be nowhere near the affected body part. I have had needles in my ear for shoulder pain, just above my toes to boost immune function, and near my second toe for headaches.
Sure, diagnoses such as “stagnated liver energy” and “dampness in spleen” don’t garner much respect in Western medicine. But acupuncture is recommended by the World Health Organization as treatment for more than 45 conditions, including addiction, acute and chronic pain control, respiratory disease, anxiety, insomnia and bursitis. Classically, acupuncture is the ultimate experiment, with 2,000 years of trial and error.
If traditional medicine isn’t solving your problem, is expensive, or has significant side effects or hassles, acupuncture may be worth a try. (Bonus: It may be covered by your insurance.) From my point of view, if it works, it doesn’t matter how.
And, yes, I did get pregnant.
Wanna give it a shot?
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