Stick it to Me

I like getting massages. I get a deep tissue massage at least every month, more often if I’m racing or have an injury. My massage therapist has been suggesting for years now that I try acupuncture for some of my aches and pains. I resisted because, while a massage feels great, acupuncture doesn’t. It’s not that I have a fear of needles (have you seen an acupuncture needle? It’s tiny, like the width of a couple of hairs) since I get allergy shots every week. And I have a pretty high pain tolerance…23 hr labor and delivery with no drugs, you get the picture…

The reason I didn’t want to try acupuncture was purely because I knew it wouldn’t feel good like massage does. So I just kept getting massages. Then I got a glute/hamstring injury that really derailed me and I wanted to fix it quick. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get an appointment with my PT for months, I figured I’d give chinese medicine a shot, so I made an appointment with Rachal Lohr-Dean from South Riding Acupuncture. The great thing is that Rachal shares an office with Rose Hanan, my massage therapist so it’s convenient, plus Rose was able to tell Rachal what was going on so I didn’t have to repeat myself. Don’t you hate having to tell 6 people what your problem is? I know I do.

At my first appointment last Friday Rachal went over how acupuncture works and that the needles basically were telling my body to pay attention to areas and start the healing process…or words to that effect, anyway. I like the fact that acupuncture works with my body’s natural healing abilities…or at least I like how it sounds…

Although the pain was in my glute, Rose and Rachal surmised that the source was probably my ever-tight hips. Also, my calves were super tight – whether that was cause or effect I’m not sure, but she treated those, too. So I lay face down on the table so Rachal could stick the needles in my hips, butt, and calves. Since my back and shoulders are always tight from hours spent typing on the computer (I write for a living), I had her stick some needles in there, too.

Before she tapped (it really is a “tap”, not a “stick”) the needle in, Rachal would feel around to identify the tight spots. I could feel some of the more acute spots, and felt a pulling sensation when she tapped the needle in those areas. An article I read (referenced below), suggested that this feeling is the sensation of connecting to your body’s qi, or energy. (And you thought qi was just an easy high point scorer in Words with Friends…) Other times I felt nothing at all. Most importantly, it didn’t hurt. A couple of the needles felt a bit uncomfortable when they went in, then the discomfort subsided.

As I predicted, the session did nothing for me at the time. I just lay there, dozing and drooling, with a heat lamp keeping me nice and warm, for about an hour. It’s a great time to take a nap. After she removed the needles, which I barely felt at all, and checked she hadn’t left any behind (which I appreciated, wouldn’t want to walk around with a needle stuck in my neck, even a little one!), Rachal reminded me to drink plenty of water. Just like after a massage, drinking water is essential to flush out all those toxins that have been released into the bloodstream.

As instructed, I took it easy for the rest of the day but Saturday I unleashed it all in a 2.5 hour spin, and followed it up the next day with an 8 mile run. I was impressed to find that my glute/ham and calf pain, while still there, had subsided considerably. Everything felt looser and much more relaxed, and, although it tightened up on the run, I rolled out on the foam roller right after and felt much better. (Rachal had also pointed out to me a couple of tight spots I’d been neglecting on the outside of my calves. Rolling those was agony the first time…)

As each day progressed I felt a little looser and the glute/ham/calf talked to me less and less. By Wednesday I was able to run track for the first time in 3 weeks. I held back just a little, but not much, and to my relief the muscles were quiet.

Today I went back for my second appointment. Same routine, although we both noted that the muscles are looser and less talkative. Yeah, those needles shut them up.

I don’t know all that much about acupuncture but I’m aware that it can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including migraines, IBS, chronic fatigue, as well as talkative muscles like mine.

Here’s a couple of useful articles if you’re interested in learning more (and of course Rachal’s web site has more info):

7 Reasons You Should Get Stabbed in 2012

Top 5 Excuses for Not Getting Acupuncture


Have you tried acupuncture?

If so, what for and what was your experience?

If not, would you consider it?