How about I follow up some legit science with some eastern medicine? I mean, I mentioned this on twitter today, and enough people were like WTFBBQ that I guess I should post about it. I had my second acupuncture appointment last night. Nicole talked me into trying it, despite what can only be called EXTREME SKEPTICISM, with perhaps even a side of DISDAIN, because she was sick of hearing me complain about my near daily severe headaches and frequent migraines.
I normally get about three migraines a year, and few annoyingly bad headaches every month. Not awesome, but definitely manageable. When I’m pregnant? I apparently exist in a land of unremitting headaches, and of course can’t take ibuprofen for them. (This makes some sense physiologically, and is likely the result of rapidly increasing blood volume during pregnancy – starting around weeks 6-8, and peaking around weeks 32-34.) With Eliza, it started early and lasted, I shit you not, at least four months. I got one god awful, middle of the night migraine, and a couple other doozies, but mostly just had a constant, ever present, all day, all night, moderately bad headache. For FOUR MONTHS. This time around, the headaches set in around twelve weeks. I’d have maybe one headache free day a week, but the other days I’d have moderate to severe headaches, and at least one or two migraines. The migraines started happening more often over the holidays, culminating in a week where I got them EVERY. DAY. I have a full time job. I cannot function like that. I was basically coming home from work and taking a unisom and a phenergan and going to bed. Terrible.
So, at that point, I’m basically willing to try anything, even something ridiculous (in my mind) like acupuncture. I mean, whatever, it’s legit enough that my insurance covers it, and there have been a number of good scientific studies supporting its efficacy for a variety of ailments, but I am a mechanism person, and the mechanism is far from clear. When I take medicine, or undergo any medical procedure, I look up what it is, and more importantly how (and how WELL) it works. I usually start at Wikipedia and delve further from there, and the section for mechanisms for acupuncture is one sentence long, basically boiling down to “we have no fucking clue.” So this is way, way outside my comfort zone. But, um, so are migraines? And also, considering that when I have a migraine, I have actually considered SMOOSHING MY SKULL, signing up for a few needle pricks seems less irrational.
Nicole found a place for me to go to, because I am so damn skeptical that even looking it up myself would have ruined my tenuous acceptance of the procedure (and in fact, this isn’t a sciencey run down because I still won’t look up the literature – stay with me, possible placebo effect!). I went in last week with a headache, told the (very nice!) woman that I was super skeptical but willing to try, and she jabbed me with a bunch of teeny tiny needles. And my headache went away. WHATEVER, NICOLE.
Ok but seriously, what was it like? I have no fear of needles whatsoever, which I know a lot of people do. I didn’t have my glasses on, and couldn’t even see the needles – they were TEEEEENY – 38 gauge. The diameter is 0.16 mm (about that of a human hair). For comparison, a flu shot is usually administered with a 25 gauge needle, 0.5 mm in diameter. I don’t find the actual shot part of the flu shot to hurt much – a teeny pinchy feeling – as opposed to the achy arm afterwards. Acupuncture hurt less than a flu shot. Some of the needles I didn’t even feel going in. She placed them all (about 20 total?) in my forearms, wrists, lower legs, and ankles. Some of them she twirled around a little once they were in, which didn’t hurt really, but did ache a little bit, and was a little weird conceptually. I also made the mistake of flexing my lower legs at one point, which ached similarly. I asked about the aching, and she said that the froofy answer relates to chi or chakra or some shit, but she assumed I didn’t want to hear about that, and said it was muscle fibers moving. Once placed, she let the needles sit for about half an hour, and I just laid on a comfy bed in the dimly lit room, dozing. Then she pulled them out and I was on my way. She recommended a few follow up appointments, and then we would reassess to see if it was working or not.
When I went in for my appointment, I had a headache – it was mild but ramping up quickly. I walked out with no pain, and uh.. haven’t had a headache since. I cancelled my remaining follow up appointments. So, score one for you, eastern medicine.