Reimer: Acupuncture seems to help where modern medicine failed

Ancient treatment brings relief to 50-year-old's ailments

March 11, 2010|By Susan Reimer

My husband the sports writer calls it "Team Reimer," and he says it has more members than the supporting casts behind any Olympic athlete he's ever covered.

I tell him that if I was as young and fit as the athletes he writes about, I wouldn't need a team to keep me on the road.

But I'm not, and so I have a yoga trainer, a massage therapist, the best hair-colorist in my town, a manicurist, a general practitioner to whom I am devoted and an aesthetician. Not that my husband knows what an aesthetician is.

Now there is a new member of Team Reimer. My acupuncturist.

Traditional medicine - from podiatrists to orthopedic surgeons - has failed to relieve the pain in my joints caused by years of wear and tear, so I followed the advice offered by too many of my friends to ignore.

I made an appointment with an acupuncturist.

His diagnosis? "Fifty-year-old knee; 50-year-old hip; 50-year-old shoulder." Add to that, 50-year-old hands aching from shoveling 50 inches of snow.

But when the newest member of my team took my pulse, he was alarmed. It was running pretty high. About as high as my level of anxiety, I would guess. I'm not a big needle person.

So I shut my eyes as the needles went in, and I kept them shut until he told me, 30 minutes later, that the needles were out. My imagination is vivid enough without visuals.

And I have to say, I barely felt a thing.

There were 15 needles - acupuncturists usually work in batches of five. Some went in around my 50-year-old shoulder, more around my 50-year-old hip and more around my 50-year-old knee. But others went between my toes, at the base of my skull and spine, and in my scalp.

The needles inserted for pain, he explained, would promote the release of endorphins, the brain's natural painkiller. The others would address my sleeplessness and my anxiety, which he called my "restless mind."

(My husband said I'd need a knitting needle to shut down my "restless mind.")

My acupuncturist promised I would feel a little better each day after the treatment. After five weekly visits, we would know if acupuncture was working as well for me as it had for so many of my friends. He gave me two kinds of Chinese herbs, and I was on my way.

To take a nap.

After the treatment, I was completely exhausted.

I thought it was the result of my nervousness, but a friend had warned that acupuncture can leave you feeling whipped.

Five days later, I had a second treatment, and I must confess that I have felt a little better each day. After years of disappointment in traditional treatments, I am not declaring victory just yet. We will see how this goes.

In the meantime, so much of acupuncture remains a mystery to me. There is my yin and my yang. My qi (chee) and my meridian line.

And in the background, there is my husband. Writing checks and shaking his head.

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