Acupuncture: My Journey With TCM

Important Disclaimer: No information posted on this blog should be interpreted as medical advice or as an endorsement of a specific treatment. For questions regarding your personal health issues, please consult your licensed medical practitioner. If this is an emergency, call 911.

I know I’m not the only person who has found the past three years emotionally exhausting. Health care workers talk about the chronic short-staffing, and overwhelming onslaught of patients during the pandemic, but not as much about how its emotional impact affects their home lives. Add on the family concerns of aging parents, our retirements, and the problems upsetting our community, the stressors add up.

Some of that stress found its way into my body. 

A visit with my primary care physician resulted in a referral to an oncology specialist, “just to be sure.”

 I don’t have cancer. This opinion is based on appropriate imaging, pathology reports, and test results. My body believes it too: I do not have the sense of terror I experienced when I found my breast cancer tumor so many years ago.

I believe in the mind/body/soul connection. When medical disease is officially ruled out, and western medicine has few answers, I consider seeking a safe alternative approach. 

After ruling out a serious health problem (I am purposely repeating myself), I decided to seek out a reputable doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for management of my symptoms.

At my first appointment she took a detailed history, and recorded my symptoms. She examined and photographed my tongue. Pro Tip: Do not brush your tongue before TCM appointments. Avoid coffee, if possible, before the appointment, because it discolors the tongue. 

Examining tongues may sound unusual, but in western medicine , a white, or “coated” tongue can indicate several health conditions too,  prompting the no longer fashionable, “stick out your tongue” direction our family doctor commonly practiced when I was a child. I don’t remember a western physician asking to look at my tongue since.

She took the pulse in both of my wrists. She asked about my stress level. She asked how well I sleep at night, and whether my body temperature runs hot or cold. She asked if I dream. She asked about my diet, the medications I take. She asked if I have food allergies. 

That’s how I found myself lying in the dark on an exam table, with fifteen to twenty acupuncture needles protruding from my forehead to my toes. I nearly fell asleep due to a deep sense of relaxation. I felt a twinge in my right shoulder followed by the sensation of the joint and muscles realigning themselves, a position I guess they haven’t been in for a very long time. 

When did my muscles begin holding so much tension?

I first learned about TCM in nursing school. One of my instructors stood at the lectern during class discussing cultural differences in healthcare. After affirming her belief in science, she told us a personal story, much like the one I’m telling now.

She was having difficulty conceiving a baby. She and her husband had tried for months without success. Her next step was costly fertility treatment. Her family urged her to seek TCM, which she had avoided. In desperation, she gave it a try.

She held up before us a plastic bag filled with bark, and herbs. She was instructed to steep them in hot water and drink as a tea.

A few months later, she announced her pregnancy, later giving birth to a healthy child. 

I have been prescribed herbs too. The first prescription was a bottle of tiny, black pills. I was to take twelve, twice daily, before or after meals, but several hours before bedtime.

It’s uncharacteristic of me to take a supplement or medication I don’t have a clear understanding of. Nonetheless, I followed the instructions of my TCM physician. My husband, a retired hospital pharmacist, and I decided since the herbs are deemed harmless by vetted websites, even if improvement was simply placebo effect, so what? 

The first night, I experienced a dramatic clearing of my sinuses and ear congestion. By dramatic, I mean I did not realize I have not breathed clearly for the past two years.

After the pills, the prescription was changed to granules, a powder to mix in hot water and drink 2-3 times daily. 

It’s been several weeks since I began my journey with TCM. My symptoms are gone, my stress level reduced. My overall health has improved. My insurance benefit, which covers the cost of the appointments, does not extend beyond the end of this year, so I only have a few treatments left.

Even if my perceived improvement is placebo effect, so what? I feel so much better.

Important Disclaimer: No information posted on this blog should be interpreted as medical advice or an endorsement of a specific treatment. For questions regarding your personal health issues, please consult your licensed medical practitioner. If this is an emergency, call 911.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Julie,
    This was a great article. Good information to share with everyone. I have used acupuncture for over 30 years. Initially it was only to help manage back pain from an injury but later on I had great results with managing anxiety and perimenopausal symptoms of hot flashes and mental fogginess. Thank you for getting this information out to more people.
    Tonya

    Liked by 1 person

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