ME, Myself and I: Acupuncture

I wasn’t sure if I’d do this post, I’m always wary of reading things like this about ME ‘cures’ so I’ll understand if people don’t want to read this. A mini disclaimer type sentence I thought I should include; this post is about my experiences, I am not a medical professional and this is just my personal experience and opinions, they’re probably different from other people’s so please don’t take them as fact. Thanks. I always get nervous doing posts about treatments for ME, there seem to be so many ‘miracle cures’ out there that I wanted to make that bit clear.

Acupuncture is one that I’ve heard many times over the years as something that has helped a lot of people but on the flip side it’s also one I’ve heard stories of it almost taking energy from people. Add in the fact that I’m really not very good with blood tests, jabs I’m fine with for some reason, and the thought of having a needle stuck in me for any length of time makes my legs feel like jelly and I stayed away from this possible treatment for longer than I probably should have. If you don’t like the thought of needles either than this post may not be for you. Don’t worry there aren’t any pictures but I do mention it a few times and I know some people don’t like that.

Before I start the story I’m going to say that after all of this I’m still on the fence about acupuncture, this is not one of those miracle cure type posts but I don’t think it’s a horror story type post either so nothing dramatic in here, just a post about my experience in the three sessions I’ve had so far. Do you think I’ve put enough of these disclaimer type things in here yet? 😛

Recently I’ve had a lot of tests and things done, by recently I guess I mean the past 8 months, and an appointment with an ENT doctor about my light headedness which came to nothing led me to trying acupuncture as he practices it and he’s one of those doctors that seems to get ME and I felt like I could trust him with doing it right. I did go and see my GP to see their reaction and the one I am seeing at the moment said she’d heard of it as having positive effects and it’s worth a go as the first couple could be done on the NHS maybe so it wasn’t costing us anything to try it.

My first session was definitely not a great experience, I had a bit of a wobble on the way there, I knew I was anxious and that can sometimes kick start my light headedness and I was so shaky and weak when I went into the doctor’s office I was crying I think. I went in with mum as I really wasn’t looking forward to it and she could distract me if I needed it and he was fine with her being there. He explained a bit for a couple of minutes but thought it best we start right away as I was obviously not feeling great so we went next door and he told me to lay on the bed, it was one of those ones you get in doctor’s offices so nothing fancy but comfortable enough. He started putting the needles in and, to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I expected, it felt a bit like an insect bite or something similar and they itched when I had them in but nothing that I couldn’t deal with. After about eight I started to feel light headed so he stopped and left me with them in for ten or fifteen minutes with the lights off, it wasn’t that dark as the blinds were still open but it felt less like a hospital. He came back in and took them out and by then I’d calmed down a bit, though it still wasn’t exactly enjoyable I was ok to get up and walk out without having to rest or anything.

Unfortunately my second session I originally booked had to be cancelled as my grandparents were both very ill and for the month or two after mum was with them a lot so we sort of left the acupuncture and thought I’d give it a go later. After another appointment with my GP about a month ago I decided to start it up again sooner rather than later and just see if it helped. This time I had to go privately though as I’d need to be re-referred to go with the NHS and then it’d be hard to do as the ENT doctor had referred me back to the GP saying there was nothing they could do, which was fair enough as it wasn’t an ENT problem. To self-pay it costs £80 a session so it’s not cheap but as I trust the doctor and I’m familiar with the hospital from past appointments and surgeries I’ve had there it’s less stressful for me which is always a good thing when it comes to making decisions since I’ve had ME.

The second session went much better than the first, this time instead of the eight or nine needles he put in the first time I think there were around fifteen or sixteen on my face, neck and shoulders and then he put two in each arm and one in each leg to see if these would help with the ME pains as well as the problems I was having with light-headedness and balance, he said as we were paying we might as well go for everything that was causing me pain to see if it helped. This time they didn’t itch as much and I felt less dizzy when he was doing it so he was happier when he left I think. I didn’t feel some of them though the ones he’d put in my temple area really throbbed a lot and I couldn’t move my jaw or they started to hurt. I don’t know if it’s because I was more relaxed or whether it’s a possible side effect anyway but my arms felt really heavy, it was a bit of a weird feeling but if I didn’t have the itchiness I think I might have possibly been able to doze off if my whole body had felt like it, it was like it was falling asleep I guess. Again, he came back in and removed them and no problems apart from one which bled a bit but apparently that’s not too unusual.

After the second appointment I did find that my right arm was really painful for a bit, I think it was because the point he put one of the needles was the same place I normally end up getting poked when I have blood tests and I always have a bit of a reaction to that, my arm goes stiff and I get a bruise so I wasn’t too concerned about this. The headache was more annoying, I often get a bit of a headache around my temples but this was just like there was pressure there all the time rather than coming and going. It didn’t affect me too much with ME symptoms which was a relief.

I did end up with another gap between appointments, though this time only a couple of weeks as either he was away or we were when I should have booked the appointment. The third session was pretty much like the second though mum said he pushed the pins in further and I could definitely feel pressure on all of the areas like my arms and legs which hurt if I moved them at all. My eyes did water quite a bit when he put the needles in the area slightly below my nose, I think he was more concerned about this than me as it always happens when I get injections at the dentist so I wasn’t bothered by it. I always thought that was fairly normal but apparently not.

After this third session I’ve had less problems with pain caused by the acupuncture itself. I have had the headaches down the side of my head and my temples which can make looking at the computer hard but other than that nothing, no repercussions with my ME which is always something I worry about with any medical treatment. I have also realised that the pressure I often feel in the middle of my forehead and sometimes in my sinuses seems to have gone which is a positive thing, I’m not sure if it’s from the acupuncture or not but if it is then that’s one thing that it’s helping with.

Overall I’m still on the fence, I doubt I will ever be one of those people who can go and sit there and fall asleep, apparently that’s what happened to mum when she used to get acupuncture years ago. At the same time I’m not going to say that it’s done anything negative to me health wise. I’m going to give it a three week go, I have another appointment on Friday which is exactly a week after the last, to see if that makes a difference and see if the more I get done the less the headaches affect me. I do wish I’d considered it earlier, I always thought of it as a bit of a horror movie type thing with pins poking in everywhere but it’s nowhere as bad as I expected. The points I had acupuncture do itch a few days after and I have a bit of a bruise from one of them but I wish I had gone before and then I’d already know if I either find it helpful and could have had less pain for years or if it’s just not something that works for me.

If you’re undecided about it, especially if you can get it on the NHS for the first few sessions to see if it’s for you, then give it a go. It isn’t a cheap treatment if you can’t get it on the NHS or are in a country without a similar system but if it’s within what you are willing to spend to try then I’d say it’s worth having a go, though only if you find someone you trust to listen to you if you don’t think it’s working after a few appointments rather than keeping on pushing you. Apparently you can know as soon as the acupuncture is finished if it works or not sometimes, I guess I’m not one of those people that have an obvious outcome either way. I think there may be some reasons not to get it if you have certain health problems but if you have another condition besides ME (which is the only chronic illness I’ve had this as treatment for really) I’d say ask your GP or, if you find a practitioner, then the person doing the acupuncture as they’re the experts who know what they can do and how they’d do the treatment. However I would definitely look around for someone with a good reputation if you do decide to go for it.

Also remember that if you do give it a go you know your body and your illness as well as anyone and if you feel that it’s really not working for you then tell them what feels wrong and see how they reply. It could be that the aches are expected but if it still doesn’t feel right then listen to what your body is saying.

This ended up quite a bit longer than I meant it to and is probably a bit boring but I hope it helped someone. Have any of you tried acupuncture and found it helped or not? I’d love to hear other stories especially how long it took for it to actually have an effect either way, it seems most of the stories I’ve read it’s an almost instant thing where you know if it works or not so any information from people who have actually had it done would be great 🙂

Thanks for reading and I hope you’re all as well as possible

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2 thoughts on “ME, Myself and I: Acupuncture

  1. I’ve had acupuncture a couple of times. The first time was for severe sinusitis combined with a sinus infection where I was so swollen that I looked as if I’d been beaten. I don’t remember how many needles were put in my face, but only one of them was a weird feeling (not quite pain, but definitely unpleasant), from the same round of sessions, I also had needles in my chest, arm and my hand (at the meaty part at the base of the thumb) – the one in my hand HURT. During those sessions, all the swelling went down, and the mucus (sorry if tmi) disappeared. The most recent acupuncture experience happened about three (maybe four) years ago when I threw out my back, with spasms running from my right shoulder, crossing my back and ending up in my left butt check and upper left thigh. I had spent 10 days doing the conventional medicine treatment (muscle relaxants and pain killers, rest, and alternating ice and heat) and it was not improving, but getting worse. Over the course of five treatments (over a two week period), I had standard acupuncture, as well as acupuncture with an electro-current for the worse pain spots, and cupping (where they use a glass jar and flame to cause a vacuum effect). The acupuncture and electro-current worked amazing for controlling my pain and letting the muscles relax, but the flame cupping (I don’t remember the exact name for it) just felt weird and left hilarious circle bruises all over my back and it looked like I had been attacked by octopus tentacles! If I had the money, I would probably go more often, but since it costs about $75 (Canadian) per session (not covered by my insurance) I only go if I am in terrible pain.

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    • I think the hand ones hurt the most too, it seemed an odd place to put them when it was mainly around head symptoms for me but it sounds like it’s a fairly standard place to have them then if it was for sinuses for you. Glad it worked for you, pity it’s so expensive though. Thanks for commenting, it’s good to hear stories from people it’s worked for as quickly as that as well.

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