I love guest bloggers! The following is a post from Joy Paley, a science and technology writer from Berkeley, CA. After foregoing chemistry research for writing 4 years ago, she’s focused on her passion of making science relevant to the everyday person. You can read her work in The Journal of the American Chemical Society and on An Apple a Day. She’s also not afraid to make herself a human guinea pig for the good of the masses, and she finally gave acupuncture a shot after years of dismissing it as unscientific. When she’s not writing on the subject of medical transcription training or catching up on the latest medical research, she can be found spending time outside or working on a crafty project. Here’s her post:
I’m a science writer for a living, and I spend countless hours a day sitting at my computer. And, because I telecommute, I often spend my days in cafes and libraries, where the setup isn’t exactly ergonomic. The result of my body negligence? A chronically sore neck, shoulders, and borderline carpal tunnel syndrome.
After the pain became a mainstay, I quickly set up a better laptop stand and keyboard at home, but the pain persisted. I began doing yoga and stretching, and that helped a bit, but the sharp pains would still come on at unexpected times, and I worried I had screwed up my body for good.
I went to see my general practitioner, who told me to keep stretching and prescribed me pain killers. This visit wasn’t exactly helpful, as I’m very sensitive to medicine and can’t take anything besides aspirin during the day and expect to be able to get my work done.
I was at my wits end, when a friend of mine suggested I try acupuncture. I knew she regularly saw an acupuncturist and that she said it had helped her with her lower back pain, but I was a skeptic. I’m a science writer after all, and acupuncture isn’t exactly trumpeted by mainstream medicine. I worried that the whole thing was a high-priced placebo. After I did a little research, however, I learned that science was divided on acupuncture because it is notoriously hard to study. Since I try to live by the motto “don’t knock it ’til you try it,” I decided to give it a go; there was no harm in trying it and seeing what happened.
I met with my friend’s acupuncturist for a consultation, where we discussed my medical history and my issues. At our first session she decided we would focus on the pain in my neck and upper shoulders. I was afraid of the needles (though I wouldn’t have admitted this to anyone). The acupuncturist could sense my tension and reassured me, telling me that people experience the treatment in different ways (some feel a tingling sensation, others a pressure), but that it wouldn’t be painful.
She began placing the needles in my upper back, shoulders, and neck area. She explained where she was putting each one, and this also helped calm me down and gave me a sense of knowledge about what was happening. She was right, it didn’t feel like pain—it was more of a deep warmth throughout that entire region. After she put twelve needles in, she told me she would be back in about twenty minutes, and that I should try to relax and enjoy myself. I didn’t realize that the session itself would be so calming. I was initially wary of the serene music and the atmosphere of the room, but in the end it felt sort of like going to a spa or getting a massage; I had the sense of being looked after and pampered by a professional.
After the session was over, my neck felt more flexible, and the pain seemed to have lessened. I knew it could simply be a coincidence, so I didn’t get too excited. After my third session, it was clear that it wasn’t any coincidence: my pain was nearly gone. Since then, I’ve been converted from a skeptic into a true believer.
My advice for anyone thinking about acupuncture who is still on the fence: why not try it? It might not work for everyone, but it worked for me, and that’s something regular medicine can’t say in my instance. You’ve got nothing to lose, and your health to gain.