Mental Health Before, During, And After Acupuncture

Before

I looked for an acupuncturist to treat my aching muscles. I found the best one in town online, but they only had an available slot a week after I called. I grabbed it at once because I genuinely wanted to stop taking pain relievers whenever my muscles ached. I even wrote the date, address, and time on my calendar so that I would not miss it.

As soon as I ended the call, though, that’s when it hit me. I just agreed to have a stranger – albeit a professional – to prick me with God knows how many needles!

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My brain began to come up with a million and one things that could go wrong during the process. What if someone comes in to surprise the acupuncturist while the needle is close to my skin and ends up pushing the needle deeper than intended? What if his hand begins to shake or he has a moment of doubt and pricks me at the wrong point? What if he had an awful assistant and forgot that the needle they prepared had already been used?

Of course, I refused to believe that professionals could ever do that, but doesn’t the saying go, “To err is human”? This thought kept me on my toes for days.

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During

I was scheduled to meet the acupuncturist at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday. I initially wanted to go there alone; none of my family members even knew that I was set to get acupuncture. I did not think that they would agree to it, especially since I came from a family of doctors. However, I genuinely needed moral support, so I called my best friend, who always had a support-first-ask-questions-later attitude. I gave her the clinic’s address, and she called in sick at work to be there for me. (I got super lucky in the BFF department, I know.)

My best friend’s presence soothed my nerves enough to push myself to take a step towards the reception desk in the lobby. Once I confirmed my appointment, we sat at the farthest line of chairs to wait for them to call my name. Neither of us had been in a facility that offered traditional Chinese medicine, so we were both surprised to realize that the clinic was inside a mini-hospital, complete with nurses in scrubs. Everything was white and clean; everyone smiled kindly. The TV even showed the various treatments they offered there.

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At precisely 2 o’clock, I went to the second floor, where the acupuncturist’s clinic was located. Upon getting my vitals, the elderly man informed me that he was not only an acupuncturist but also a medical doctor who specialized in joints and muscles. That eased my mind as I thought, “He must know what he’s doing.” But then, the nerves flared up when he said that he would use 20 acupuncture needles on me. 

Not two but 20! My best friend could only squeeze my hand in assurance as the doctor led me to a table where I was supposed to lie down while getting acupuncture. He was nice enough to pull up a chair for my best friend so that she could sit down, but she stood up right away after realizing that it brought her at eye level with the needles. 

Before the first prick, the doctor even showed me the needles he would use up close. They seemed thinner than most I had seen. Then, he positioned a needle on top of the knee and gave it a little tap. 

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I expected a sting – as if several ants bit me. However, the needle barely entered my skin, so it would not hurt unless I started moving. The doctor asked how I was doing, and I said I was fine, so he continued placing needles all over my lower body. I even saw a couple of them on the tip of my toes. 

My anxiety was almost non-existent at this point. I did not know that I fell asleep until the doctor tapped me on the shoulder to say that he would take the needles out. The process was quick and practically painless, too, and I was scheduled for another acupuncture session two weeks later.

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After

It had been a couple of months ever since my first acupuncture session. After that, I had the confidence to go on my own and share my experience with my family. I thought they would think I was crazy for getting acupuncture, but it turned out that my father was friends with my acupuncturist from med school. Once or twice, Dad accompanied me to the clinic, and he got the same treatment for his migraine and joint pain.

As for the efficacy of acupuncture, I would say that it worked on me. The jury was still out about it for some, but I would not mind getting acupunctured a couple of times a month, especially now that I was no longer scared of the practice.