Any input on acupuncture?
January 30, 2004 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Acupuncture? Does anyone have experience with it? How do I find a decent acupuncturist? [more inside]

I'm mainly looking for something to relieve stress and help relax muscles. I run about 40-60 miles a week, and I'm interested in trying acupuncture to help with muscle stiffness and soreness.
posted by patrickje to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
um, is acupuncture really needed for normal stiffness from exercise? Not saying you should not is a Washington state search engine
posted by clavdivs at 9:02 AM on January 30, 2004

I'm not an acupuncturist, but I do study Traditional Chinese Medicine and have seen about fifteen different acupuncturists for various reasons. I also practice acu on my dog for her arthritis and on my partner and myself.

You find a decent acupuncturist by asking around in your community and getting some different options. Another way to find them is to see who is teaching at any nearby TCM/Acu schools and find out if they have a separate practice. My recommendation is to go with the people who are the most experienced - they should understand and sell both raw and packaged herbs, should be in a clinic setting with both American and Chinese, Japanese, or Vietnamese docs, and should take referrals from western MDs. A lot of acu is learned hands-on in a clinic, just like western med, and is quite complex - you can get treatments from acu students, and it is pretty cheap or free, but they are much less experienced with complex diagnosis and often use too many needles.

FAQ that you didn't ask:
The treatments will cost from $40 to $100 a session, and will take 30-90 minutes total. You may need to go several times to see results. They will ask you a lot of questions, and will usually take your pulse by putting three fingers on your wrist and sitting quietly for a minute or two. The needles themselves don't hurt, but sometimes it feels like a little shot of electricity when they first go in. Most treatments involve less than ten needles.
There are various schools of acu and some practicitioners may stay in the room with you the whole time, and may rotate or move the needles. Others may leave the room and let you lay there, and come back twenty-thirty minutes later. Don't be afraid to ask them what they're doing and why, if you're interested. Their responses may not make sense at first, but the more you learn, the more interesting it gets.

Good luck! I've never heard of an acupuncturist doing harm to someone, and at the same time, if there is something acutely or seriously wrong, always go to a western M.D. as well.
posted by pomegranate at 9:47 AM on January 30, 2004

(So I don't know if there are other kinds of acu schools of thought other than the separate Chinese, Vietnamese, American, and Japanese methods - and there may be, and I was trying to refer to those schools of thought rather than saying that only people of these descents would be master practitioners.) Just wanted to clear that up.
posted by pomegranate at 9:54 AM on January 30, 2004

I've enjoyed acupuncture treatments for my bad back... it was helpful, and it was my chiropractor who administered the treatment.

When folks ask me how to find a practitioner (in Utah), I ask them to call this one little bookstore that specializes in alternative lifestyle publications... they then get a referal to someone in Salt Lake City, and I encourage folks to then seek a referal to someone close to them from the primary in SLC.

I don't know where you live, but I would suggest getting a referal from a reputable business in a different field (perhaps a respected yoga school, or tai chi teacher).

Anyway, good luck!
posted by silusGROK at 10:10 AM on January 30, 2004

Have you tried massage? Accupuncture so far has been shown only to work for pain, and even those results are debatable.
posted by callmejay at 11:01 AM on January 30, 2004

I've used acupunture for headaches, back and neck pain, and also to help boost my immune system (I used to get lots of colds, and now I hardly get any ).

I tried a kind of groovey New Agey MD who'd studied it, and he wasn't helpful. He actually made my wife worse. Then I got advice to find someone who had been educated in a Chinese university, and got with someone who didn't really speak English all that well, and when he did, he subscribed to the "just speak loud" school (hilarity ensued when he wanted to know about my bowel movements and ended up shouting about my poopoo and peepee). I stayed a few times, but it was too wierd and hurt.

Over the last year or so, got a referral to someone who I think is really helpful, AND is part of a network covered by my health insurance, so I only have a $10 copay.

I think the advice to ask around is good. Lots of people are into acupuncture these days. Also, if your insurance covers alternative therapies, look through the provider book.

posted by jasper411 at 11:16 AM on January 30, 2004

If stiffness from running is really the problem, you could also find someone to teach you t'ai chi. (As long as you're going the TCM route, you might as well go whole hog.)
posted by pomegranate at 11:44 AM on January 30, 2004

there is also accupressure
posted by clavdivs at 1:37 PM on January 30, 2004

I had weekly accupuncture for a couple of years for fatigue which, in retrospect, was related to multiple sclerosis. The accupuncture was extremely helpful. Lying on the table with needles all over my body ("cooking" as my accupuncturist called it) I'd go into a very deep state of relaxation. It felt wonderful and helped the fatigue.

In terms of finding someone: I'd go with word of mouth. Find someone you are comfortable with. If you don't like them, try someone else. Also, what pomegranate said.
posted by alms at 3:44 PM on January 30, 2004

I had achilles tendonitis for years, and was, when it was particularly bad, almost unable to walk at times due to the pain. 'Normal' treatments from sports medicine types - everything short of surgery, which they also recommended - did nothing to ease it.

I went to an accupuncturist here in Korea for a couple of months. They also did some moxibustion and 'bad blood' drawing and some electrical stimulus of some kind, but mostly it was accupuncture. It was agonizingly painful, which is sometimes the case (especially in Korea, where they tend to believe that if it ain't unpleasant, it ain't good for you), but entirely successful.

My tendons have been pain free for more than a year.

I'm a believer.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:43 PM on January 30, 2004

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