Friday, October 2, 2009

46 Needles & Me

Much to my displeasure, I spend a fair amount of time getting friendly with needles. I stab myself once a week with ENBREL and I am considering the option of taking my methotrexate by injection too. I also have to get blood drawn for my rheumatologist once a month to make sure the methotrexate isn’t destroying my liver.

Those monthly blood tests, in addition to other tests occasionally ordered by my primary care doctor, have had me in and out of the University Lab at least once a month for more than a year now. Since it is usually the same guy drawing my blood, as I’ve mentioned before we’ve gotten to know each other and become pretty good friends (which is a big improvement from how I used to treat lab techs in my childhood!) Favorite Lab Man always does a pain-free job of drawing my blood, hardly ever leaves a bruise, and is super-sweet to me.

When I went to visit Favorite Lab Man for blood tests last week he asked me how I was doing and I told him honestly about the trouble I have been having with my hands. He asked me if I had ever considered acupuncture. I told him I had thought about it, but never really done it. Then he recommended an acupuncturist to me that had treated him and also used to be a nurse at Student Health. He swore by her treatment and said she really knew what she was doing. He said didn’t know if acupuncture could help me, but if it could she would be the one to see.

So I took Favorite Lab Man’s advice and I had my first acupuncture appointment this morning. The acupuncturist was a super-nice lady and seemed very knowledgeable. She told me that she actually treats another patient, an elderly woman, who has RA and that the acupuncture really seems to help the patient. Apparently this patient used to take ENBREL every 10 days but now she only needs it every 15. She said she has also treated other patients with autoimmune issues, so she said it was worth a try to see if it would help me.

And was it ever weird!!! It was a really strange combination of modern and ancient medicines. In total she stuck about 46 tiny, single-use needles into my body. The needles themselves didn’t really hurt, but sometimes they caused this weird, zinging sensation. She stuck most of the needles in the backs of my hands and my fingers to help with my hand pain. Then she hooked a couple of the needles in my hands to this little machine that sent a small electric current between the needles, which felt really weird. (Not going to lie, it reminded me of the theaton thingy in the Scientology episode of South Park) But, on other needles on my hands, she stuck little balls of herbs at the top and lit them on fire like incense. So there I was, with 20 needles in my hands, some hooked up to electricity and some smoking some ancient herbs.

She also stuck some needles in my knees, shins, and into my feet. She told me that while Western medicine sees RA as an autoimmune disease, Chinese medicine views it as a “dampness” in my body that needs to be pushed out. So the needles in my legs and feet were supposed to work on that. She also asked me how I slept and I told her honestly never very well. So then she even stuck a few needles in my scalp and in my ears that she said would help me sleep.

I can’t honestly say whether or not the acupuncture treatment worked. For one thing, she told me that sometimes you don’t see results until after two or three treatments. And I still have some pain in my hands – but obviously I am typing this post and I am not crying so maybe that is some sort of improvement. Who knows. For now I am keeping an open mind about acupuncture and going to see her again next Friday. We’ll see what happens.


Sylvia Zebrowski said...

I'm very proud for being so open minded and brave. I' m sending good thoughts and love your way.

A said...

I can't wait to hear how your next treatment goes! Sounds amazing, in every sense of the word.

Sarah Z said...

Did she give you "herbal tea"?!?!?!? That's the worst part!!!!

Rebecca said...

This is a great post. Go you for being proactive and diving into a new treatment. Plus, I got a total kick (and much-needed happiness boost) out of imagining you with little smoking needles sticking in your ears. I suspect the smoking needles were elsewhere, but don't ruin my fun :)