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.