Monday, December 15, 2008

Project 30: Human Pin Cushion

No pictures, but in case you are following along at home here and no where else...

Task 28/30: Have acupuncture.
Complete: December 1, 2008 & December 10, 2008

I am not sure if it is because I live in Santa Cruz and alternative medicine is so readily available, but it seems like acupuncture is just one of those things that everyone does. It's even covered by my medical insurance through work. I hate needles. To the point where I generally have to leave the room if they are there and had the last woman who successfully drew blood without me screaming note her name in the file for future reference. There is absolutely nothing potentially relaxing for me about shoving a bunch of needles in yourself, nor do I carry enough of an open mind about alternative medicine to even try to attempt this hair brained idea. Or so I thought. With my career being one of the constantly typing type and my hobbies fairly computer driven, I have had some occasionally problems with my back, neck and shoulders. Improper posture for the duration of my life, laziness and a general lack of exercise as of late haven't really help alleviate the situation either. When injuries arise, assuredly someone always suggests one of two unexplored options in acupuncture and a chiropractor and I generally shrug it (painfully) off.

Recently a friend at work started seeing an acupuncture person with whom she shared my fear of needles, but also my persistent pain and he thought he could maybe use some other methods under the umbrella of his care to help me heal. Since I knew budgetary limitations were going to keep me from knocking off any really spoiling spa day, I figured that this was something that I had always been curious about, but afraid of, and was something still caring for myself in the spirit of the project. After a brief email introduction was made, and a casual phone conversation, all of a sudden, I was booked into my very first appointment to be a human pin cushion. Even though there would be a majority of other care, in order for it to credit with the insurance and walk out of there short only a copay, I had to have "a needle or two." He explained this before hand, and I figured it was something I could come to terms with as the other option on the plate was an $85 an hour massage. I feared an empty bank account a bit more than I did needles suddenly, and since he hadn't exactly killed my coworker yet, I figured it couldn't be that horrific. For as much of a wuss as I am, I am actually more of a whiner than anything, I can generally threshold a fair amount and I was certain I would survive whatever was ahead.

I left work early, but in my usual rushing down the declining slope of the freeway, I looked in my mirror to see Mr. motorcycle cop pulling me over for speeding. While he was nice and I decided to postpone the freak out and major stress until the cost of the ticket and due date were revealed, it was not a very relaxing way to transition from a stressful day at work to a care appointment. I tried to push it out of my head, drive the correct speed and not worry that I was going to cut it just under the wire for being on time. I hate being late places and it is not a good impression on someone that is going to be a partner in improving my health.

I arrived in the beautiful Santa Cruz office, complete with all the relaxing elements you'd think to find in there, including a fish tank with gorgeous gold fish. I was handed a clip board with some paper work that seemed fairly similar to any first health care appointment I had been to and I was suddenly thankful for the formality. I guess it's just reassuring that you see that people sticking you in vulnerable spots have some sort of order and care about themselves and their presentation. In no time I was being led back to an office to sit in a chair to sit and begin our intake conversation. I guess I expected all of the health type questions, but I have to admit that there was some serious eye rolling on my part in the lifestyle changes section. I tried to be respectful and understanding that some people truly understand and grasp things out of my nature and that while I may not want to embrace the life they are suggesting, it doesn't mean I should deny it as possibly true. There was a lot of these unwelcome suggestions that went on. I believe in birth control pills with everything my lovely little education instilled in me, there is a reason to be on it. There is no way I am giving up cold drinks. My body could be whatever ecosystem you say and you could say that I would be guaranteed 10 more years of life if I gave up iced tea and crisp lemonade, I would die early and cool. There isn't going to be kale for breakfast, there is barely breakfast. But I saw the benefits of the tone of his overall suggestions, even if I didn't like the specifics. Okay, yes, there needs to be more for breakfast than triple mochas and I should be more active and start to consider supplements. I am 30 years old and I use my body pretty foolishly sometimes, it might not be a horrible idea to start making smaller changes in my life now to end up with big differences later. While I am not sure I can complete all the homework or make the full changes, I think there is something to be said for having someone to check in with that is willing to embrace working with me on more than my muscle tension.

When it came time for the first treatment, he ended up sticking only a single needle, which I never saw or felt, directly into the top of my head. He proceeded to work on the adjustment of my neck, trying to stretch and retrain the muscles. Overall, there was much more talk the first time than treating, and I definitely think there was some serious skepticism on my part, but he was so nice and well intentioned, that I saw no harm in giving it another go and made another appointment. He suggested a book that I started using on neck exercises, and tried to set out from his office with a geniune reevaluation of my diet and lifestyle. He even called the next day to check on me, and I was really impressed.

I came back the second time the next week before work. I knew I hadn't done all the homework, partially because I was sick, and partially as I said, there will never be kale for breakfast in any universe I live in. But I had gone to the Farmer's Market and I had started cutting down on sweet drinks and caffeine. I even tried to acknowledge when I was having cold things, but realizing that I just wasn't ready to give that up as part of my treatment. I figured I had done enough of the right things to not feel guilty about taking up this guys time who was putting forth a great effort to try and treat my pain. This time there was a bit more lecturing about the cold drinks, apparently, this isn't so much a negotiable part of the treatment and he shared lots of disappointment about my progress in that line item. (I think we will just avoid discussing it in the future so I don't have to lie.) I shared that I was eating more and the big win was the less caffeine, partially kicked off to wanting to save money and being sick.

For the second treatment, we ventured into more needles. This time as I laid face down into the bed, he rolled up the cuffs of my pants and stuck me in the inside of my knees, in addition to my shoulder where I was having some tenderness from the exercises. He then proceeded to do some "cupping" on my neck and shoulders, which he prefaced with warning me about the bruises they would leave. He said the marks were the badge of honor in Hollywood since Gwenyth Paltrow had been spotted with them but this only induced more eye rolling on my part. Neither hippie nor diva am I. The cupping involved him taking 4 jars and suctioning them to my skin and then leaving the room while I laid there like I was being sucked by leeches and poked by a porcupine. I tried to relax and really appreciate that this was an entire hour in my week where I wasn't rushing and was completely for me. The cups actually felt really neat, it was just a weird position to be in, feeling my back pulled on like it was. When I started growing impatient and sort of willing him back into the room, I ended up taking a big deep breath that popped one of the jars off and onto the floor, with my hopes it hadn't shattered. I was still stiff with 3 more and needles and face down. He returned pretty shortly after and removed all the gadgets from my form and I was again getting ready to leave. We made another appointment since I feel like I can commit to enough of the lifestyle suggestions to make it worthwhile for both of us, and it's only $15 each time and an hour for me to breathe. I'm pretty pleased that I faced my fear here to find a possible new avenue for exploring healing my body, and this is most certainly MISSION COMPLETE.

No comments: