Acupuncture saved my life. That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. My herniated lower back disc had me debilitated. I could not sit, which meant no car rides, no train, no work, no dinners out (or in with friends), no movies… you get the picture. I could only walk a half block without stopping to rest, and most destructively, I COULD NOT SLEEP, let along do my favorite thing: Ride horses. In all real terms, I had no life outside of managing my pain (which I wasn’t doing very well), and was losing hope for the future that things would ever change.
I tried everything except surgery, for which I was not eligible. Physical therapy, pain pills (for a while), cortisone shots (two of them), massage, saunas, herbs, nutrition, meditation, prayer and downright pleading to god. And I wasn’t getting better. It had been a year of this and it was getting worse.
I hadn’t slept for more than a couple hours a night for quite a while when I finally went to an acupuncturist. She asked me questions that I answered through tears. I felt so frustrated and helpless. I had never understood what chronic pain was, what it can do to your psyche, let alone your relationships. I was exhausted and out of ideas and options.
She had me lie on the table and, after arranging me so I would be comfortable, she placed the needles in my back. That day they were in my back. Other days it was my front, my ears, my head, my legs and arms.
To be honest, the first treatment did not make the pain go away. Nor the second or even the third treatment – but when I got home after my first treatment, I went to sleep. I slept for 5 hours, woke up, had dinner and went back to sleep. I slept through the night. I saw my acupuncturist three times a week. After the treatment the pain would lessen for a few hours or a day. These results began to last longer and longer. What was even more noticeable was that everything else I was doing started to make a difference – the diet, meditation, physical therapy, it all seemed to be helping now. I could even start doing some at home yoga postures that helped me build strength and flexibility.
And my acupuncturist said to me, “Yes, we are going to address your back pain, but it is the whole of you we are going to be focusing on, and your back will heal in the process”. And she was right!
This is how acupuncture helps to heal on such a deep and profound level: it balances your whole system so you are not just resolving a symptom, but are being re-calibrated and balanced so that you are more resilient and healthy as a whole.
After about a year I had gained so much strength and confidence that I enrolled in a 10-month yoga teacher training program. Two years after being debilitated and not even being able to work or walk down the street I was teaching athletic, strenuous yoga to classrooms full of people. And yes, I was riding horses again! Without surgery or pain pills.
During the time it took my back to heal the question arose: What did I want to do with the rest of my life? After my experience with acupuncture, I decided I wanted to share with others – to give back – the incredible gift I was given. So I enrolled in a four year Masters Program.
I continued to receive acupuncture once a week for another year, then went down to every two weeks. I now like to see my practitioner at least once a month, sometimes more if I am going through a particularly stressful time. It helps to keep me balanced and manage stress. I have found that it helps my head – my outlook and my moods – as much as it helps my body.
Today, as an acupuncturist, I am seeing many patients, treating them with acupuncture and Chinese Herbs, and teaching yoga. Among the many things that I see patients for, which includes things like anxiety, insomnia, depression, digestive distress, diabetes and cancer treatment support, I do treat many people with back pain. I am always so happy that they found their way to acupuncture.