Stick me with needles...
July 26, 2011 1:28 PM   Subscribe

(Acupuncture filter) - So I made an appointment for acupuncture. Looking for stories, suggestions, and did it help you?

I have muscle spasms in conjunction with spinal arthritis, and I am truly at my wits end. So I've decided to give acupuncture a try. I am not worried about it, I've had worse done I'm sure in comparison to tiny needles. I am just wondering if it has helped anyone else in a similar situation. The acupuncture itself will be confined to my arms, legs, feet and hands if that makes any difference (supposing its a particular style).

Thank you, and I appreciate any input.
posted by handbanana to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I went as a child for hyperactivity. It does NOT hurt, it's quite relaxing, and (I think) it worked.

My older sister went regularly for anti asthma treatmetns, and never again needed any kind of medicine against it.

So, in my experience, it works!
posted by Tarumba at 1:48 PM on July 26, 2011

I had it for anxiety/depression. It didn't really do anything but I was in a bad way back then, so I'm not the best person to vouch for its efficacy or the lack thereof.

What I am going to say is that make sure the room is bug-free and the windows are closed and/or screened. While I was laying there, be-needled and alone, a bee flew in. I have an unnatural fear of bees. It didn't sting me but holy shit did I spend about seven or eight minutes scared out of my wits.
posted by griphus at 1:55 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I saw an acupuncturist when I was in high school and suffering from ankle pain that hadn't been relieved (or even conclusively diagnosed) by conventional medicine. Needles were placed in my feet, legs, arms, hands, and ears in an effort to "unblock my chi". It did not hurt, though during one of my sessions I shifted and a needle in my ear got caught in my hair, causing minor bleeding -- this freaked me out but really wasn't a problem.

In addition to the needles, the acupuncturist gave me little adhesive magnets to wear between sessions.

I experienced some improvement in my pain level and frequency while under her care.
posted by cranberry_nut at 1:57 PM on July 26, 2011

I had acupuncture to severe and sudden-onset back pain. I felt better after the first treatment, and the pain was completely gone after several sessions (before, I couldn't walk more than a block without having to rest). My acupuncturist did electrical stimulation in conjunction with the needles, which I think helped very much. He also did cupping therapy on my back after removing the needles.
posted by mogget at 2:07 PM on July 26, 2011

I have been to probably 7 or 8 over the years because I kept wanting it to work... it's not generally painful and it's easy to do. I kept going back, hoping, because I have had years of tai chi and they talked it up so much there....

What I discovered is
1. it definitely does SOMEthing for SOME people. Is it placebo? I don't think so, there've been studies.

2. it definitely helped me for moderate anxiety when I went to see somebody who was highly skilled.

3. it did not do a whole lot for my allergies, consistently, that I could tell, nor did it help with stomach problems, but it did calm down my lower g.i. in two cases where I just felt junky down there.

So. For me, it worked to some degree, some of the time - but only from the practitioners I saw who had years of experience and were a lot more expensive (at least, here in Austin). Some places offer "student clinics" where they can practice on you as newbie acupuncturists, but I found zero relief in those situations.

Obviously, YMMV. My guess is: there is still much to be learned about how acupuncture works, and who does it best. But I get the feeling unless somebody's reeaaaaaalllly good at it, it may not be worth doing.
posted by bitterkitten at 2:12 PM on July 26, 2011

I went for about 6 months to try to fix my migraines. It definitely didn't completely cure me (but neither has any of the Western medicine I've pursued for years!), but I do think it helped lessen the length and severity of the headaches I was getting at that time in my life. It was generally very relaxing and not painful except for a couple of very sensitive points - and even then it only hurt a bit when the needle first went in. She put needles in my feet, calves, hands, ears, shoulders, face, and sometimes my chest and scalp. My acupuncturist occasionally hooked some of the needles up to some sort of electrical device that sort of "buzzed" the points at intervals like a metronome; this was a bit painful the first time or two because I didn't communicate well with her, but when she told me it should just be the lightest tapping sensation we were able to calibrate it better for my comfort. I don't think all practitioners do that, and if I do acupuncture again I might choose to avoid the electrical stuff.

My feeling is that it seems harmless if not entirely effective - and frankly, when you're in enough pain and not getting any other resolution, who cares if it's a placebo effect? I hope it offers you some relief.
posted by katie at 2:31 PM on July 26, 2011

I tried acupuncture for migraines and wish I hadn't--not because it did any harm, but because my desperate mom paid a lot of money for useless woo. I am not aware of any reputable studies that show it has an effect beyond placebo.

I actually kind of enjoyed it, though. The atmosphere was relaxing and the sensation of the needles going in is interesting. You can barely feel it, it's kind of like a mosquito bite at the most. My acupuncturist did the electrical device thing as well, and that never hurt me either; it must have been calibrated right for me to start with.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:43 PM on July 26, 2011

I get pretty awful trapezius muscle spasms thanks to a bizarre endocrine disorder. Acupuncture works wonders for this, as do trigger point injections.
posted by chez shoes at 3:08 PM on July 26, 2011

As a huge proponent of Traditional Chinese Medicine who has studied it for many years and has had many different acupuncture treatments, I can conclusively say...that it's never done shit for me.
On the other hand, my GF frequently goes to see her acupuncturist as a crabby, miserable, aching, dyspeptic old hag and comes back a cuddly, grinning, purring kitten who likes to play the "how many times can I kiss Carlo before he gets annoyed" game.
So I'm a big fan.
posted by Carlo at 3:11 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've been to four acupuncturists before I found one who worked for me. A helpful piece of advice is to look for someone who's been trained in Chinese universities. The first one I went to was all new agey and had a very warm, lovely office with soothing music, but the treatment did nothing for me.

My second was a Chinese guy who barely spoke English, but it was very weird. The exam room was basically a storage closet and he made the assumption that since I didn't understand what he was saying, that he should shout at me. RELAX! YOU TOO TENSE! he would say when I winced as he stuck me. I was sitting there "resting"with the needles in while he and some buddies were out front making Chinese jokes. It was surreal.

Current acupuncturist has helped me with pain and with increasing my resistance to upper respiratory infections. If it's placebo, it's good placebo!
posted by jasper411 at 3:15 PM on July 26, 2011

I went to an acupuncturist for the first time last December when I was a week overdue with my first baby to try and induce labor. I went into labor shortly thereafter. So... it might have worked. Or it may have just been time. It was certainly relaxing, and I really liked the acupuncturist. It was also just interesting to see the process. Certainly can't hurt if you have the time and money.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:17 PM on July 26, 2011

I went for stress-induced recurrent yeast infections (accu and moxibustion w chinese herbs) and it worked!!!! (I had tried many things already. I think the combo of relaxing/receiving focused care-giving was very helpful)
posted by supermedusa at 3:48 PM on July 26, 2011

I went while I was going through chemo, etc. to help with pain, particularly back/hip/leg pain from being semi-bedridden. Definitely helped with relaxation and muscle spasms. (It also knocked me out every time into a very deep, satisfying power nap within the first couple of minutes.)
posted by scody at 4:39 PM on July 26, 2011

It depends entirely on the acupuncturist. And maybe a little on your repore with that person. Get referrals.
posted by jbenben at 6:00 PM on July 26, 2011

Several years ago I suffered from a weird headache for an extended period. Like 24/7 for two years. Like using 450 hours of sick time in 6 months. It was horrible. Various doctors never did come up with a root cause...they did throw a lot of drugs at it which reduced but did not eliminate the pain, but did allow me to function. Eventually however, the drugs had a negative effect (like: not having a bowel movement in 2 weeks. While on vacation. Camping in Montana).

I finally had myself weaned from ALL the drugs and the headaches cmae back like they had never been gone. With nothing to lose I tried acupuncture. She was able to articulate my pain better than I had ever been able to, but the kicker came right before I climbed on the table. She asked if I was experiencing pain on the bottom of my left foot. Holy Crap! I sure was and had, in fact, just thrown away a pair of shoes that I thought was causing it. At that point I was willing to do whatever they told me to do.

Bottom line: 2 treatments over three days and my headaches were gone, never to return.

It may not work for everybody, but it sure worked for me!
posted by jeporter99 at 8:03 AM on July 27, 2011

Three points of second-hand anecdata:

Friend A had frozen shoulder. Friend A tried acupuncture (10 sessions, I think?) and thinks it might have helped, some, but can't really say because the shoulder started feeling a little better a few days before the first appointment.

Friend B had weird swollen feet that interfered with his walking. After trying everything Western medicine could throw at him and getting zero relief, he tried acupuncture. The first acupuncturist he tried was no help at all and didn't seem to know what she was doing. The second one he tried gave him immediate relief - the swelling went down dramatically.

Friend C was completely unable to quit smoking. Acupuncture helped.

I am highly suspicious of woo, and Friend A and Friend B are both very evidence-based people. My own opinion of acupuncture changed considerably when I started looking for double-blind studies in PubMed:

My current thinking is that it seems to work for some people and some maladies. If I found myself with a malady that seemed like it might respond, I would probably give it a try and see whether it seemed to help.
posted by kristi at 3:18 PM on July 27, 2011

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