Holistic medicine has been something that has captured my interest since I can remember being interested in health. The “old time” remedies that were spelled out in books and old TV shows always captured my interest. I have raised honey bees and loved doing things with the beeswax, essential oils and, of course, the honey. The honey turned out to be very helpful in reducing my allergy symptoms. I had horrible seasonal allergies to tree pollen and would spend two months every spring since I was in diapers sneezing, coughing, and sniffling. I had allergy shots as a kid and took every allergy medication known to man with very little relief. When I read that honey, with its natural mix of pollens, was more effective in relieving allergies than most medications, I was hooked and had to give it a try. It took about one year of using honey on foods or drinks like waffles, pancakes, crackers, smoothies, tea, etc., but it worked. I have not required allergy medicine during tree pollen season in over 5 years. No one believed that it was the honey and I must say I got my share of teasing about it. The fact that my little nay-sayers knew the information came from mom’s “weird” natural magazines was the kiss of death for it. That was until several allergists in my area started recommending this. In fact, my son’s asthma specialist told me one day that she wanted him to use honey because she preferred this to allergy shots now. I almost laughed out loud because not one of my children believed that the honey had anything at all to do with my own allergy relief. After the endorsement from the asthma doctor, honey suddenly became not only tolerated, but sought after. The bees, which were certainly not being treated with the respect that their hard work deserved, enjoyed an increase in popularity.
Since my interest in natural medicine was easily peaked, I perked up when my insurance policy added acupuncture to the list of covered benefits. This summer I decided that it was time to give it a try. After a bout with Lyme disease, tennis elbow, general aches and pains, along with just plain feeling stressed, I made the call and scheduled the appointment. I had read a lot about acupuncture and knew some people who had great success with it, but wasn’t sure what to expect when it got right down to it. I was certainly open to it and believed in the benefits of alternative medicine, but it was uncharted territory.
My first appointment was two hours! We sat and talked about why I was there and she took a very complete history. We discussed my medical history as well the problems I was presently experiencing. In addition to the past and present medical issues she took an inventory of mental health issues. She wanted details about my stress level, how stress was expressed in my body, and my coping style. Details about my son’s eating disorder were reviewed. Support systems and outlets for tension and stress were included in the history taking. I am not sure why, but I was surprised at the depth of the history gathered during that first appointment.
I began receiving treatments every week for 10 weeks beginning that day. I had some preconceived ideas about the treatment based on the experiences of friends and also from reading. I think that my actual experience partially met my expectations. I was certainly expecting the needles and I knew that they weren’t just randomly placed, but instead very carefully mapped out depending on the source of the particular pain or complaint. There were a few surprises though. The first surprise was that I expected the needles to go directly in the part of your body affected by the pain. I did wonder how that would work if your pain was in, say, a more delicate area of the body. Not so, if your hip hurts the needles do not necessarily go in your hip. I had the misfortune of developing tennis elbow in both of my arms. I could hardly hold a coffee cup without dropping it. I expected to have needles in both of my arms around the forearm and the elbows. The closest a needle came to that area was my hand. There were needles very carefully placed on my stomach, my legs, my feet, and my head, but not my forearms. There were needles place on my back to help my hips and there were needles placed on various pressure points and even my ears to help address stress and tension. I was then left to lie on the table for about 20 minutes with some specific instructions in the practice of progressive relaxation and imagery.
The needles were not painful. For the most part, they could not even be felt. There was a bit of a pinch and a strange “electric” sensation with the needles used on my feet and ankles. I must admit, I didn’t look forward to those. They didn’t really hurt though, they just felt strange. There was no pain with the removal of the needles. After they were removed my pulses were checked to determine the strength of my energy. The goal was to bring the mind and body in balance so that they could work together. My mind and body had merely a nodding acquaintance with each other at the time of my first appointment and my pulses reflected it, but they greatly improved with time.
The results have been very encouraging. I have no pain in my arms any longer. The pain in my hip also disappeared completely and I can sleep much better at night as a result. I am noticing that in most areas involving pain there has been a tremendous relief. As far as stress and tension, that is better as well. I would not say that it is gone, but I wouldn’t have expected it to be either. I think that there is a more pervasive feeling of well-being and grounding that were not there before. Now I am moving to the maintenance phase where I can go every 4-6 weeks just to make sure that I maintain the gains that I have made.
I would highly recommend acupuncture for anyone in almost any situation. Acupuncture has become more and more recognized as a reputable treatment and the scope of illnesses and conditions treated with acupuncture have widened tremendously. Acupuncture is now being slowly recognized in the mental health community as an adjunct to traditional therapies and medications. Acupuncture is more widely accepted to assist with treatment of such illnesses as OCD, depression, anxiety, and PTSD to name a few.
While I love natural medicine, I am not of the belief that natural medicine should be used to the exclusion of modern medicine. There is often a line in the sand between those who believe in organics and natural medicine and those favoring modern or western medicine. I am of the opinion that they can, and should, co-exist. There is plenty of room for both and they can often complement each other. Ideally, practitioners of both natural and modern medicine should collaborate and consult with each other regarding their mutual patients so that the patient can benefit from the expertise and experience of all his/her providers.
For everyone, but specifically those of us caring for a loved one with an eating disorder, acupuncture may provide relief both physically and mentally. It won’t cure everything; nothing does, but having one more source of support for both body and mind might be both a great comfort and a great addition to your caregiver’s crisis plan.