Acupuncture

I struggled with chronic hip pain for months without any relief. I tried stretches, heat, cold, massage, chiropractic care. All of those things helped a little, but nothing solved my problem. I stopped running hills and then stopped running altogether. I cut back on my dance classes and tried writing standing up, but I still had pain.

That’s when my doctor suggested that I try acupuncture. It’s covered by my medical insurance and several friends have had great experiences with it. Could it work for me?

I like to have at least a vague idea what medical treatments do before I try them. There are theories about acupuncture, but when I researched it, I couldn’t find a scientific explanation of how it works. (This could simply mean that I didn’t know where to look.) Generations of people have found relief with acupuncture, though, and there are few side effects, so I was encouraged to try it.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at my first appointment. I’d heard that the needles are so small you can barely feel them and I was hopeful that would be true. I’m used to getting blood drawn, so I don’t mind some discomfort, but I get woozy when I see a needle sticking into my vein and I always have to look away.

During my acupuncture treatment, I was on my back on a table, so I couldn’t see a thing but the ceiling. If my head started to spin, at least I knew there was no risk of falling. For most of the needles, I felt a slight poke and then a very light weight on my skin. Two of the needles did hurt, but the acupuncturist took them out and replaced them so I felt only the weight.

Once the needles were positioned, I was left alone to let them work. I wondered how long I would be able to lie still on the table – afraid to move lest a needle shift. I was tense at first, but I concentrated on my breath and managed to relax. Then I felt a tingling sensation throughout my body. When that faded, I fell asleep.

The day after my first appointment, I had much less pain in my hip. Over the weekend, some of the pain came back, but it wasn’t as severe as it had been.

I had two treatments the next week. I experienced the same tingling in my arms, hands, legs and feet, but it wasn’t as intense as the first time. I found it much easier to relax, though, and my hip pain was reduced a little bit more after each treatment. I also got rid of a knot in my neck and an ache in my foot. Unfortunately, the pain in my hip came back after a few days.

The third week, the acupuncturist wanted to add electrical stimulation to my treatment. She attached what looked like miniature jumper cables to two of the needles in my leg. She turned on the machine and I felt like something was tapping on my skin. When she turned up the current, it was more of a vibration. It was distracting, but eventually, I was able to relax and fall asleep. After that treatment, my hip felt significantly better.

Does everyone fall asleep during acupuncture treatments, or am I just lazy?

By the end of the fifth week, I had much less pain in my hip than I’d started with and the relief lasted longer. Then we went on vacation and I skipped a week of treatment. Sitting in the car all day didn’t do great things for my hip, but I wasn’t as achy as I expected to be.

I have two appointments left and I’m hopeful that I’ll find more relief. I wish I could say that my hip pain is resolved, but that might be too much to expect considering the longstanding nature of my problem. Maybe I won’t ever be free of it, but I have experienced significant improvement and for that, I’m grateful.

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20 Comments

Filed under chronic pain, Dance, Running, Travel

20 responses to “Acupuncture

  1. Hey Shary,
    I am so glad you have had some relief from your hip pain with acupuncture. It would be so nice if it would manage it completely! You are the last person I would consider lazy, falling asleep is totally normal as your body is being taken care of. You are very aware of your physical being, more than most, as shown by your ability to report so accurately what you experience during the session. Wishing you well on your journey to painless living.

  2. No, you’re not lazy. It relaxes you. I’ve had several visits and fallen asleep (or maybe it could be we’re both lazy? :-O) I hope you find comfort on a more permanent basis. I was prescribed a powdered herb as well, but I went for different reasons. I really believe strongly in the practice.

  3. Thank you for the close up look at how acupuncture works. I’ve never tried it myself but have often wondered why anyone would expose themself to so many needles. But it seems to be working for you, and I like that you went into it a bit skeptical, but are finding relief. So now you’ve made me more inclined to think of it as a viable option should I ever need it. Glad it’s working for you. Hoping that with more treatments your hip pain will be gone. Fingers crossed!

  4. That is so great, Shary! I did acupuncture for a while for headaches and I felt it did help. Lately I’ve been seeing this holistic health practitioner who specializes in acupressure and other holistic massage-type treatments. I don’t even want to call it massage, because it’s really more than that. I started seeing her for body tension and anxiety, and I leave feeling more relaxed than I ever have. She does amazing work. I do think there’s something to this homeopathic treatment that traditional western medicine is just not hitting.

  5. Susan McBeth

    HI Shary
    So glad you are experiencing some relief from your acupuncture treatments. I had several months’ worth for a back problem, including the electrical stimulation, but to no avail. I also did medical massage therapy, physical therapy, a exercise trainer, and injections, none of which helped. However, I do think I’ll continue the medical massage therapy, cuz even though it doesn’t help the pain, it does feel pretty darn good. Good luck with the rest of your treatments.

  6. anita carol smoth

    Hi Shary-I liked walking through this process with you. And I’m glad it made a difference!

  7. I’ve had acupunture one time, and BOY DID IT WORK! I was in the middle of relocating professionally and personally over five hours away. Just to add to the stress level, I was also responsible for the relocation of our corporate offices at the same time. The acupuncturist put some of his tiny needles in my temple and around my face & jawline. He only left them in for about 20 or maybe 30 minutes because it was my first time and I was scared. Afterward, I felt so relieved. AND, I couldn’t stop crying. It was like a wall had come down and I let it all out. I highly recommend acupuncture!

  8. Sandy

    Glad to know you are feeling better – not sure I should have been that brave but I wager Lola is glad of the renewed running with mum…

  9. I definitely would try acupuncture if nothing else worked. The more I do t’ai chi and yoga, the more I feel our Western perception of how our bodies work is incomplete. Thousands of years of Chinese wisdom has to account for something! Have you finished your treatments? Great, informative post.

    • We are such complicated creatures, aren’t we! I have one more treatment left and I’m hopeful that acupuncture will give me long term relief from my hip pain. Fingers crossed!

  10. annabellesmom

    I had a similar experience and I tried accupuncture. It seemed to help, but I didn’t have as many sessions as you are having. I would try it again, though. I am a certified personal fitness trainer and still keep my certifications current, although I’m pursuing more education in a totally unrelated field, hoping to find eventual employment in that career. My B.S. is in Nutrition, so I’ve studied lots of science, health, anatomy & physiology courses. Having that background and my personal trainer education enabled me to analyze my skeletal issues with the help of medical imaging and physical therapists. I was diagnosed with sacroiliac joint dysfunction, which is quite common in women. Like you, I have a dancing background, and lots of competitive dancing in former years aggravated the hip pain. Pregnancy & childbirth can cause or aggravate sacroiliac joint dysfunction, as can wearing the wrong type of footwear, especially if you run (which you mentioned you did.) There are muscle rebalancing exercises and certain stretches which can correct some of the imbalance of sacroiliac joint dysfunction. I don’t know if you also have this type of condition, but I can tell you that the pain can be referred to the hip and groin areas and inner thighs, along with low back pain. What I thought was a problem with my hip joint and related area was really due to the sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Hope this helps someone, as I don’t think too many people are aware of this common condition.

    • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction sounds horribly painful. My x-rays came back normal, so I don’t think it’s an issue for me, but it sounds like some of the symptoms match. I’d never heard of the condition, so thanks for sharing the info. I hope you’ve found relief from the stretching and exercises.