As an acupuncturist, I am frequently asked questions about what acupuncture can treat, how it works, and if the acupuncture needles hurt. Occasionally someone will ask me if I have any really amazing acupuncture stories. My gut response is to tell them that I have dozens of amazing stories about the effectiveness of acupuncture to heal. But I realize that what they’re asking is if I have any Wow stories about acupuncture. I have a few.
My most amazing story occured many years ago while I was still in school studying acupuncture. As part of my masters program, I was required to spend several hundred hours in the school’s teaching clinic treating patients.
One afternoon, I treated a man who came to the clinic for chronic headaches. I don’t remember his name, but I’ll call him Mel*. Mel was in his sixties, and had been battling headaches for years. He had tried a number of treatments, and had even had some kind of a surgical procedure in an attempt to alleviate the pain. The surgery didn’t help, and in fact left him with neuromuscular damage in his foot. He was seeking acupuncture as a last resort.
I did a thorough intake interview with Mel, and during the course of our conversation, I noticed that Mel’s right foot was continually moving. His toes and the front of his foot moved like he was pressing and releasing the gas pedal of a car–about 30 or 40 times a minute! Mel explained that this movement in his foot was nerve damage and the direct result of his unsuccessful surgery. Mel told me that his foot never stopped moving, and it was most noticeable and annoying in the summer when he wore flip flops.
I developed a point prescription and began to treat Mel with acupuncture. He was primarily concerned with the headaches, because he believed that there was nothing that could be done with his foot. I began by placing needles in or near the area of his headaches, as well as some in his hands and lower legs. I had also chosen to use an acupuncture point on the top of each of Mel’s feet. I inserted the needle into his left foot, but his right foot was a little tricky. It felt a little like coming in while playing jump rope–I had to time my insertion with the movement of his foot.
I inserted the needle and his foot stopped moving.
Mel and I looked at each other. I said “Huh!” and Mel shrugged his shoulders. His foot did not move again during the course of the treatment. He walked out of the clinic that day with his right foot still; something it hadn’t been for years. Sadly, because I was treating Mel in a teaching clinic, I never saw him again. I don’t know if his foot remained still or if his headaches were ever resolved.
However, whenever I struggle with a patient who isn’t responding to treatment as well as I would like, and I begin to question the effectiveness of acupuncture, I think about Mel’s foot.
*Names and identifying details have been changed.