I finally tried acupuncture

I promise you I went into that acupuncture appointment with an open mind.

I mean, I really wanted to like the guy. And I really wanted the ancient Chinese remedy to actually be a viable form of treatment for me.

I decided to arrange the appointment after getting a text from my best friend suggesting I try it. She was about the 27th person to recommend it, so I took it as a sign and Googled “acupuncture” + “the name of the closest city.”

I called the first place that came up.

They had the word “medical” in their name, so I figured that must be sort of legit. I gave the receptionist my full name, address, and insurance information and set up a morning appointment in two days.

My mom says it’s a bad sign when they can get you in that fast. But I was in so much pain that I convinced myself it was because they just cared so darn much.

When the fateful morning arrived, my mom drove me to the appointment.

They started with the same type of stuff every doctor starts with: 30 minutes worth of paperwork and asking if my grandpa’s cousin’s dog ever had glaucoma or heart disease, which was followed by a nurse and vitals.

Finally, after being there for about an hour, the doctor came in. He was friendly enough, and as I went through the crazy winding story of how I ended up in his office after waking up with random rib pain last year — with no known cause — I really did hope he’d be able to magically fix me.

He listened to all the details, proclaimed that he “gets lucky a lot,” and asked me do a urine test right then and there. About three minutes after I submitted the sample, he came back in and said it showed that I had “leaky gut.”

That’s about when the crazy started. He launched into a speech on how I needed to go on a very strict diet for the next three months, and take piles of supplements, which I could, of course, conveniently buy from him. That, combined with acupuncture, would probably fix me.

Except the diet wasn’t gluten-free or vegetarian or fat-free. It was literally:

  • No potato
  • No dairy
  • No beef
  • No pork
  • No coffee
  • No sugar
  • No wheat
  • And nothing in a bottle, box, can or jar.

So basically chicken, broccoli, and three cups of fruit a day.

The doctor assured me that this was going to help me lose some of the weight I’d gained from the medications. Which makes sense, because anytime you give up four major food groups, you’re bound to lose some weight.

He had a handout on the diet and everything, which made me think it was the same diet plan he gave to all of his new patients, regardless of their condition.

Oh, and of course, he said I needed to start taking myself off all the prescriptions I was currently on, a little at a time, every two days. Except, you know, it took me more than a year to find the right drug regimen, and without them I’m in complete agony, no matter how many supplements I take.

Then, before I even knew what was happening, he started an acupuncture session on me.

I don’t know how that crazy rumor started about how you’re not able to actually feel the acupuncture needles because they’re so small, but it’s a bunch of crap. Not only could I feel every single needle, I also was bleeding when they took them out.

After poking me with at least 15 needles all over my body, ranging from my calves to my forehead, he said I had to do deep breathing for 20 minutes and then a nurse would be by to take the needles out.

As I lay there, I tried to stay calm and focus on breathing in and out, but 20 minutes is a long time. I spent most of it dreaming about the beef and cheddar sandwiches my mom and I were going to get after the appointment at the nearby Arby’s. Man, I love their fries. So yeah, the diet part probably wasn’t for me.

After the needles were taken out, the nurse did a two-minute laser treatment on my right side. The laser was never explained to me and it didn’t do anything for me, but it didn’t hurt, so whatever.

All in all, after everything, I didn’t feel one ounce better than I had before I walked in the door. Even so, I still was planning to come back for another appointment. I mean, I could be open to multiple acupuncture sessions if that’s what it took.

But as I sat down to schedule my next visit, the nurse tried to sell me all the supplements I supposedly needed to get better. Although they didn’t have everything the doctor had recommended to me in stock, what they did have came to $200.

When I tried to tell the woman that I don’t just have $200 extra dollars, she seemed annoyed that I wasn’t taking my health seriously. And when I asked if there was just one important supplement I could buy, she replied, “They’re all really important and they all work together.”

That’s when I knew I wouldn’t be back.

I paid my $35 for the urine test that I didn’t need, and another $30 for the co-pay I calculated in my head — just to be sure I didn’t get any follow-up bills from the place. Then, I made a follow-up appointment that I had no intention of keeping.

I really do wish getting better was as simple as eating less dairy, taking $200 worth of supplements, and having 15 needles stuck throughout my body a few times a week. But after enduring this excruciating pain for as long as I have, I know better than to buy the snake oil.

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  1. Oh my what an experience you had! I for one just will not try anything anymore for the shits and giggles or from the pressure of family and friends. First, it’s always expensive because insurance companies don’t cover much or not at all. Second, after 10 years of being sick, I’m pretty in tune to what my body needs. And third, these new fad diets would take all of my SSI money and I would be sleeping in a homeless shelter. But kuddos to you for at least trying but next time I would make your friends and family pay 😉

  2. I hear ya! Been through the same thing with the supplements and all and they wouldn’t even give me accupuncture until I was taking their supplements! Left that place so mad at being taken of the $60 appointment fee.

  3. Thanks. Not going. Thought I might try but I had my suspicions. Feel for you, but at least you don’t have a physically demanding job like mine with two physically handicapped dependents in tow. I stiff arm and leg my way through a day and then sit down to make it through making dinner before I can at least lie motionless for 10 hours. I completely get the shower thing and I get the rationing at the end of the month which I don’t do any more, it’s too painful. I could give up and exist on 625.00 a month SS but the damn light bill is $200.00 of that. I’ll probably fall flat on my face out in someone’s yard while trying to fix their irrigation system someday soon.

  4. I came across your blog while googling “getting off of hydrocodone”. I can totally relate to chronic pain, thoughts of suicide and hatred for the only drug that helps (it also hurts actually). I read your post about going without hydrocodone. For me, the first dose helps immensely and the second one I’m not really sure about, and if I have to take a third… Just forget it! It actually starts to make things worse I think. The pain gets worse and I get dumber!!! I hate it! I’ve tried most everything out there. My pain started with my first scoliosis revision surgery in 2000 in which they fused me from T2-S1…a long fusion. Then three more full length back surgeries. I too have traveled long distances to see doctors, trying to get some help. I can relate totally to the disappointment you feel now. I’m sorry. I can also relate to thoughts of suicide.
    You are brave to write how you really feel and to be so transparent. I would be afraid it would create a problem at work. I can’t work full time. And I wish like hell just to be “normal”!!!!

  5. I’m sorry you had such a bad experience! I have been having acupuncture for about a year now to treat my neuralgia from shingles, though I took a break for a few months after my first nerve block, and it really helps me. I just started again about a month ago and I really saw a difference in my pain level. I would recommend, if you decide to try it again, to research and maybe get a recommendation from someone you trust. I was recommended to my acupuncturist by a close family friend and I have never looked back, I don’t feel the needles when they’re in, and very rarely is there any bleeding. She also doesn’t give me any herbs or supplements, just the acupuncture treatment. Unfortunately I live in Hong Kong, otherwise I would definitely recommend her to you. The pain isn’t gone, but I do feel that it lessens the severity of the attacks. I hope you can find some relief soon, this is a horrible way to live.

  6. I attended the three-week chronic pain program at the Cleveland clinic back in January, 2009. If you would like to know what it was like both from an agenda, process and personal standpoint I’m happy to talk to you about it. There’s just not enough space in the comment section to cover everything I’ve experienced. I will say that they were all talking about how the mayo clinic was going to start their own three-week program as well and had been shadowing the Cleveland clinic’s program accordingly. So if you want to know email me and we can either use it done in one conversation or if you prefer the emails. I’m 57-year-old retired businessman due to my chronic pain of 12 years now so I have no interest but in trying to help you if possible. Mike.

  7. Stillman Valley has a great chiropractor. Greg Wojciekowski. I went to him after my back surgery. Wish I had gone before. I lived in Byron when I got hurt. Ended up in Joliet for pain dr.

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