I was going to begin this post by saying ‘I’m scared of needles’ until I realised it’s just as superfluous as saying ‘I hate dentists’. Show me someone who enjoys having long rods of bloodsucking metal shoved into their body parts and I’ll show you a psychopath. What I should really say is that I’ve never met a needle that didn’t cause me to faint. Except once—but considering I was already in hospital for fainting, Murphy’s Law dictates that it was unlikely to happen again under the watchful eye of a medical specialist.
As a result ‘have acupuncture’ was never high on my list. But as absolute necessity will overcome just about any fear, on discovering that acupuncture can be used to cure hay fever, the thought of a hay fever free life completely dulled my needle aversion. That is, of course, until the day of my appointment when I came to my senses. (Well, not all of my senses considering my sense of smell usually suffers under hay fever’s iron fist.)
To backtrack a little, I first discovered that acupuncture was used to treat rhinitis through someone’s posting of this link on Twitter.
As I’ve suffered the symptoms of hay fever since birth I’ve grown intolerant to most hay fever medication and so an itchy and sniffily nose has become like an old friend. An old, incontinent friend who never shuts up. As regular injections and medication sporting the warning ‘may cause drowsiness’ were my only remaining options I was certainly glad to consider an alternative.
Unfortunately acupuncture is generally one of those professions that has not yet harnessed the power of the webpage and as I’m one of those people who no longer uses telephones, finding an acupuncturist who treats respiratory problems was like trying to find a needle in a haystack (sorry). It also seems that anyone can do a six month course and call themselves an acupuncturist which certainly doesn’t instil much faith in needlephobics. But a call-out on Twitter and Facebook (useful in so many ways) left me with a couple of recommendations and a quick phone call later (fine, I use the phone SOMETIMES, but begrudgingly) and I had myself an appointment. Bonus—they also have a website, therapists with over ten years experience and were cheaper than others I’d found.
With my appointment looming I could think of only two things. One—a story told by a friend who does acupuncture about the time a patient accidentally relieved herself while under treatment, and Two—NEEDLES!! NEEDLES!! NEEDLES!! NEEDLES!! NEEDLES!!
But as chickening out is not part of the resolution code I simply had to ignore these incessant thoughts as much as possible and get on with the frightening task.
CUT TO: INT. ACUPUNCTURIST TREATMENT ROOM – 2PM.
To kick off the consultation the therapist first talked to me about my symptoms, general health and explained the treatments she was going to use. An unexpected fact that came out of this discussion is that it’s highly likely I have endometriosis which would affect my fertility should I ever want children. Other than that, I liked the therapist instantly and found her laidback yet knowledgeable approach sent the last of my fears packing. She then explained the principles of wind and fire making me realise I have absolutely no concept of how acupuncture works which I’m entirely comfortable with considering I’d likely find weaknesses to poke holes in (pun intended).
I jumped up onto the treatment table and prepared for the needle onslaught. She used approximately 13 needles starting with feet and moving upwards to legs, hands and face. Each needle is tapped into the pressure point and feels like a small pinch to the skin. Nothing to fear at all. I said as much and she responded that there was a time when people came for acupuncture literally quaking in their boots but these days it’s just so commonplace and the needles so fine that it’s really nothing to worry about. And it isn’t.
The needles are left in for 20-30 minutes and at first feel like mosquito bites without the itch while they rest in your skin, but eventually the feeling goes away completely. The only time I felt any pain was when a sudden movement of my foot made the needle bounce around. The therapist explained that the majority of people tend to fall asleep while under treatment due to acupuncture’s relaxing effects, with most beginning to nod off after the second needle is placed into their skin. But as someone who finds it difficult to relax and since I was all adrenalined up from the experience I simply stared at the ceiling, smiling to myself for tackling the resolution. Afterwards her assistant removed the needles which felt like someone plucking a single hair from my skin.
The cost of the appointment was $70, of which my health fund will cover $33 and I was also given $22 worth of Chinese herbs to strengthen my immune system. The therapist asked to see me in a week after which time I could continue weekly treatments if I so chose.
I’ve spent the time since drinking my wonderful concoction of curry flavoured dirt three times a day and hoping for the best. I’ve suffered hay fever twice (both times it came on an hour before a shift at work – psychosomatic?) which meant I had to revert to taking my drug of choice, Cetirizine. However, a week later and I suffered my third attack so badly that I booked my follow up appointment for the same day, despite the cries from my bank account. This time I didn’t take any antihistamines and my symptoms were so intense that it made me realise exactly how effective my Cetirizine has been.
The therapist asked questions regarding my hay fever since my last appointment and upon discovering I’ve accidentally been taking too much of the Chinese herbs (I was given the wrong instructions) she laughed and said ‘no wonder it’s been working so well!’ Considering I was still getting hay fever this made me question HOW it’s been working so well and whether the acupuncture was just for show. To my annoyance it meant I had to buy another bottle of herbs. She reminded me that I should also be using a salt wash (where you pump a bottle of salted water through your nostrils to flush out any toxins) and so I picked up a kit on the way home.
The second application of needles was virtually painless until she put one into my face that must have been so close to a nerve that certain facial movements caused me a great amount of pain. I spent the 30 minutes desperately wishing for it to be over.
When the assistant came to remove my needles she laughed hysterically when the one in my forehead refused to come out, commenting that she’d never seen it happen in all her 15 years of working there. The brief vision of spending my life resembling a porcupine was not pleasant.
That evening my hay fever had become so debilitating that it was beginning to resemble a more serious ailment. I later realised the likely reason for this particularly severe attack was because I’d managed to flick shampoo into my eye that morning and it had probably gotten into my sinuses.
Whether the treatment will be effective in the long term still remains to be seen but at least I now know the drill. (Oh sorry, that was a dentist joke.)