23 of them to be precise, inserted into my lower back and buttocks yesterday afternoon and that stayed there for 30 minutes, vibrating with electrical waves.
No, I was not abducted by aliens. I finally went to an acupuncture appointment.
One of the things that I've realized since being in chronic pain, is that certain things that used to bother me, are now no big deal. When you deal with varying levels of pain every day and have to get up and get on with your day, your life, despite it, it gives you a whole new outlook on life and a whole new ability to shut out pain. With a greater appreciation for the good days also comes a more balanced perspective on short-term pain itself, especially when that pain or discomfort is directed at healing you. So, from this place I was able to get through 23 needles being inserted into my flesh with no more than a rush of adrenaline and some sweaty palms.
It started with the acupuncturist listening to my twenty minute story of pain, injury, failed treatments and symptoms. It's quite a discussion and when I sit down and actually go through it chronologically for people, they're actually quite taken aback. I mean, I walk into the room like any other person, I'm not in a wheelchair and I'm fairly well turned-out and so some people, I wouldn't mind betting, actually think my problems are exaggerated or that I'm some kind of hypochondriac. As I go down the list of 'stuff', you can see their eyebrows raise, then furrow, their mouth twitch and twist.
This time was no different and the acupuncturist scribbled notes furiously as I talked. Then she stopped, put down her pencil, and told me that acupuncture could only really deal with the pain and neurological symptoms (something which I already knew) and that she felt it would be best to start in my SI joint area, since this was the most chronic of the conditions (even though the most acute is my back right now.) And so we did.
How did it feel? Exactly as you would think it would feel. Pricking and stinging, on a similar pain level as when you pluck your eyebrows, except, of course, in your butt. I am still yet to have the magical experience that some nutty people report when they say they "don't feel" needles (whether through acupuncture, blood drawing, or vaccinations). I think these people are lacking some nerve endings because it's a frickin' needle and it's going into your skin - it's your body's natural reaction to feel it. So, it was a bit painful but nothing unbearable. Bearability is the yardstick these days.
Then, once the electrical stimulus thingumy was attached to the needles and started pulsing away, it was kind of like having a tens unit on your back, which I've had used a number of times. After which I got to lay on the table in the dark, face-down for thirty minutes, as the needles went to work.
All very ho-hum at the end of the day except that, when I got up, I'd had my head resting on the massage table for so long that my right eye was blurry. I could barely see through it for the first ten minutes and had to sit in the car and wait for some vision to return before I could pull away. The blurriness lasted for about an hour before I was back to normal and so I was kinda freaked out about that for a while. Not digging the loss of vision at all.
And how do I feel this morning? Well, no different, quite honestly. I wasn't in much pain, if any, yesterday to begin with, so there wasn't anything to immediately relieve. This morning I went back to the gym after a week off, where I did my PT exercises, 10 minutes on the arm-bike, 10 minute on the reclining bike, and 10 minutes of walking and now my SI joint is acting up again. So nothing too strenuous, you would think. Yet I've got that tingling and burning in my sacrum and going down my legs. The minute I even TRY to do any kind of physical activity it gets mad and I can not stress enough how careful and cautious I am in every movement. Sucks.
The acupuncturist would like to see me every week but, at $75 a time, I'm going to stretch that out a bit more. I don't know what I should have been expecting after my first treatment but I'm not feeling any immediate benefit. She did say I should be feeling great this morning but I woke up feeling the same as normal (when I'm not injured or in the middle of a flare-up, normal) so on that measurement it didn't do squat. Maybe a couple more sessions will tell me more, maybe not. I'm impassive about the whole thing, honestly. If there is a placebo effect I think I'll be immune to it. I'm neither convinced acupuncture can help me nor certain that it won't. It's one of those "leave no stone unturned" type efforts for me.
One thing the acupuncturist did say when examining me is that I have some compressed lower vertebrae - something nobody has told me before. Neither has there ever been an x-ray or MRI on my back. All the focus up until this point has been on my hips. So, I'm going to mention this to my doctor today when I see him and see if we can get me in for an x-ray. I'm still convinced that there is some underlying, root cause of all this pain and discomfort, that there is some other problem that is causing all these others, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that it has something to do with my back.