Wednesday, June 13, 2012

stick it to me

Is it possible that Grandma's is really only 3 days away? Hoooollllllyyyyy craaaaap.  I hope I'm ready.

So, you know I've had some issues with pain over the course of my storied running career, right?  Baker's cysts and tendinitis being the most obnoxious causes of pain, but other ugly little issues have raised their heads from time to time.

So I decided to try acupuncture.  Mostly because I got a deal on You know how much I HATE to pay full price for anything.


Clearly, having a stranger stick needles in my body isn't something I feel I should pay full price for either.  Makes perfect sense, no?

Don't worry, I did my due diligence.
Is the place of acupuncture in my (small, NOT urban) hometown? Check. (I spend enough time in rush hour traffic already, and it don't gotta be in the big city to be good!)
Has it been in operation for more than 8 months? Check. (It's been up and running for NINE months)
Is it run by someone who understands athletes? Check. (He's a former All-American NCAA gymnast.)

Focusing on the knees and ankles.
So far, I've had six sessions. And to paraphrase Katy Perry, I had acupuncture and I think I like it. (As far as I know, there was no cherry ChapStick involved.)

Anywhoo.....  It's kind of strange but the first few times it didn't hurt at all.  But as I've upped the ol' mileage and abused the bod, I've gotten more sensitive. The last treatment hurt like a son of a beyoch! Apparently, that's normal. Your body starts to know what to expect with the acupuncture and reacts more strongly or something.... also, having run 20 miles makes your muscles a tad more tender than usual.

So the process goes like this: you talk about what ails you, and then needles are placed in locations intended to target your target areas. Then you are left alone for 10-15 minutes, then the practitioner comes back in and messes with each needle to make sure you REALLY feel each and every one and then leaves you alone again for another 10-15 minutes for the needles to do their magic.

These needles target the relaxation muscles.
(there is such a thing, right?)
This is my arm by the way.
It's pretty cool actually. There are direct lines to pain sources that can be targeted.  And, similar to foot reflexology, there are locations on your body that will target your lungs, blood flow (oxygenation) and all sorts of things. I wish I had paid better attention to the descriptions.  Typically, he would place needles in each ear (the scapha, not the lobe or canal) and one on my forehead between my eyes. Both are intended to induce relaxation.  It worked.  I woke myself up with my snoring a couple of times. But I digress....

The treatment regimen is to do two treatments per week for two weeks and then maintenance of one per week for however long you want to continue.  I've moved through the two per week and have progressed to the one per week. I have two sessions left and will be using them after my little jog from Two Harbors to Duluth.

Oh, and word to the wise: once the needles have been placed, DO NOT flex your muscles or move a lot or try to get your phone out of your pocket so that you can take pictures of the needles piercing your skin. Movement HURTS and you will regret your stupid decision.  It's best to just relax and enjoy the alone time. 

See the divot around the needle close to my ankle?
I had a MASSIVE muscle cramp during this session
(this is the after photo right before the needles were extracted)
and when that needle was  pulled out, it had been
bent to a 90 degree angle. Muscle power!!

So the best part about all of this is that my tendinitis hasn't been as much of an issue lately. And I've been sleeping better, too.  Is it the acupuncture?  Honestly, I don't know.  But it doesn't seem to have hurt anything.  So I'll keep at it and see if these positive trends continue.

Anyone else ever try acupuncture or other types of non-Western medicine to combat pain, anxiety or anything else?  What are your thoughts?


  1. Watch out, Grandma's! With that kind of power in your ankle, you should not be worried about little ole marathon. Seriously, that is so cool you bent the needle.

    I also hate paying full price. I strike out a lot with Groupon because of my lack of research. When will I learn to look up the address even when I think I know where it is already. Clearly, my memory is shoddy at best, so I should never trust it.

    God speed (and you speed) at your race!!!

    1. You and I seem to be cut from the same cloth! Along with the love of cut prices, I am also severely directionally challenged. It's pretty laughable really how totally lost I can get.
      Thanks for the good wishes!

  2. Nora, I've heard good things about acupuncture. Of course there are the people who think it's just a mind thing--if you think it will help, it will. I figure if people have been doing it for hundreds of years, it must work.

    Good luck nora! I'll be thinking of you and sending energy your way.

    1. Thanks for the good wishes, Sue! I agree, it could be all in the mind, but it has been around for a pretty long time so they must be doing something right!

  3. Busman's holiday for me. I work as a statistician on clinical trials.

    I'm all about evidenced-based medicine, and I'll fully acknowledge that not everything in 'western industrialized medicine' is, in fact, evidenced-based. Nor can everything be tested in a clinical trial - there are too many things to test and not enough participants or money to do it all.

    A lot of non-traditional therapies have not been the subject of a clinical trial and may or may not work. Same goes for untested uses of western pharmaceuticals, i.e. for indications other than what they were originally approved for.

    Sometimes, in the end, you end up having to make choices without all the evidence you might like.

    Anecdotal evidence, such as individual reports, really don't qualify on the scales of evidence.

    That said, it seems like it can't do much harm short of possible infection (seems unlikely). If you think it helps, then fine.

    For the record, my outfit here did to a formal clinical trial of acupuncture to reduce peripheral neuropathy in persons with AIDS, but we did not find evidence of benefit.

    That does not mean that accupuncture is ineffective for all purposes, and it may well work as an effective relaxation technique or have other benefits. I don't have any evidence for or against that.

    I don't like the term 'alternative', because there is nothing really 'alternative' or even 'complimentary' about these treatments. In the end, there are proposed treatments, be they traditional or western/industrial or otherwise; some are validated by clinical trials, others are not.

    The real danger from so-called 'alternative' treatments is when people put trust in untested treatments and ignore proven traditional treatments, or when 'alternative' treatments taken at the same time as traditional treatments interfere with them. For example, St. John's Wort, widely taken as an herbal treatment for depression, had a drug interaction with indinavir, one of the early treatments for HIV-infection, which reduced its effectiveness. This may have led to increased viral replication, possible development of anti-retroviral resistant strains of the virus, and poor health outcomes.


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