I overcame a fear of needles to try acupuncture. And I've never felt better
Acupuncture may seem like magic, but it’s slow science
I’ve always been scared of needles, to the point of fainting during every blood test or vaccination. Flash forward to 40+ years later and I’m lying on a doctor’s table covered in more needles than all those tests put together. After my first acupuncture session, I called everyone in my family like a giddy 15-year-old after meeting her Bollywood crush.
I had the energy of 20 shots of cutting chai.
Like all mothers of adults still making doctor’s appointments for their progeny, I had taken my daughter to the acupuncturist to treat a back problem.
Through those five sessions, I saw how her pain was alleviated.
The acupuncturist worked magic with a few needles strewn across her body – better than physiotherapy and medication.
I had more health issues than handbags at that point, so I signed up.
Acupuncture is more science than magic
An ancient Chinese form of healing, acupuncture involves the insertion of needles as thin as a strand of hair at particular points on your body, based on your health issues.
“Acupuncture points are where nerves, muscle and connecting tissue can be stimulated,” explained Delhi-based acupuncturist Dr. Aadil Khan. The stimulation increases the flow of blood to these areas.
The body’s natural painkillers are triggered at the same time, working together to decrease inflammation in the area.
Your acupuncture points can be stimulated in different ways depending on the condition you’re looking to treat. “We can stimulate acupuncture points through needles, laser, MOXA (Chinese herb), Infrared lamp, by giving pressure on that point,” said Khan.
I spent days reading up about the practice. If I was going to play Khatron Ke Khiladi, I needed facts to stop the acupuncturist from poking me with more than I could handle.
More than anything, I had to keep an open mind. Diabetes, thyroid issues, high blood pressure and a hysterectomy due to uterine fibroids — I had to show Khan all my cards.
Facing that pointy-edged dragon
All my self-study and preparedness disappeared as I lay down on that mattress. No amount of Rescue Remedy was enough to keep my anxiety in check.
When the fear gripped me, I felt it would have been easier to go through childbirth again.
But it was nothing more than a mosquito bite. Khan talked me through each step, giving me a heads-up before inserting a needle and explaining the purpose. With each addition, I felt more relieved.
Before I knew it, we’d covered my legs, hands, knees and belly. I never thought I’d live to see a day when I’d have an acupuncture needle in my face and the top of my head.
I didn’t even feel half of them going in, because they don’t pierce deep into your skin.
Acupuncture can work for almost everyone
I went in primarily to manage my hormones, but acupuncture is a more holistic approach to wellness.
It brought a mental balance and clarity to my mind that the thyroid imbalance-induced brain fog had muddled for so long.
If you’re open to it, most ailments can be managed with acupuncture, Khan explained. “Some conditions like cancer, HIV, tuberculosis, liver cirrhosis, kidney failure etc require medical treatment but acupuncture can help in reducing the side-effects that happen during their treatment.”
It should be avoided by people with bleeding disorders and pregnant women.
The way your body handles an illness is different from somebody else, even if it’s the same ailment.
The number of sessions and frequency of treatment varies from person to person, as do results.
Keep it real
Khan told me during our meeting – Acupuncture is not a quick fix. Read all about what you’re getting into before you start.
It’s been almost a month and while my fear of needles has vanished, my health problems haven’t.
I still take my medicines (as advised by both my allopathic doctor and Khan, himself). With time, I hope to reduce the dosage.
As with any holistic treatments, you need to have patience, give it time and keep your expectations realistic.
I’ve never felt lighter, more energised or less irritable.
In my pre-acupuncture days, each meal would be followed by abdominal distension which I don’t experience any more.
What you should know before trying acupuncture
You need to be comfortable with this person because this is a collaborative process – sharing your symptoms, medical history, maybe even some medical tests.
“You have to be honest, patient and mindful of your symptoms — how they’re changing and reacting to the treatment. My job is to listen and observe, reflect, connect and treat accordingly,” said Khan.
You have to be ready for dietary and lifestyle changes to allow yourself to reach a space of overall wellbeing. There’s no instant cure. You could need anywhere between 5-25 sessions, with maintenance meetings over the next few months.
But what you can expect, as I did after years of battling one health issue after another, is some relief.
I just never expected it to come from a needle.