I'm not quite sure what I expected after my very first acupuncture session. When I made my appointment, the only thing bothering me was a pair of slightly creaky, achy knees-the result of several minor car accidents and years of waitressing. I made my appointment out of simple curiosity, and so had no real pressing issues to work on at the time. I'm not the most patient person, nor am I particularly easy to impress. Some patients will make note of every tiny improvement during the course of their treatments, and track accordingly. While I absolutely love that, that's just not me. I need dramatic, clear results, or I'm likely to just write off my experience as nothing more than wishful thinking. So, in the long run, it was very fortunate that my first session of acupuncture actually sparked some discomfort. If it hadn't, I never would have learned to appreciate how powerful this medicine can be.
The day after my treatment, I realized that my knees were free of pain. Frankly, I wasn't blown away by this. Although the pain was gone, my knee issues tended to fluctuate wildly with all kinds of factors: temperature, stress, humidity...I never really knew what level of pain to expect. Waking up to knees that felt good was hardly miraculous. However, I did have a raging headache, which was unusual. Generally my headaches were few and far between, and when I did get them it was usually later in the day. I took a few aspirin and went to work.
Fast forward to the next day, and the pain had not abated at all. In fact, the headache was worse. I very, very rarely experienced a headache that lasted longer than a day, and even though I kept popping aspirin, nothing was helping. I vaguely wondered if the acupuncture had something to do with it, then dismissed the notion. I could accept that inserting some needles may have provided pain relief due to the endorphin release, but I couldn't imagine it being able to provoke a headache. It simply didn't make sense.
Two days later, and I was still in pain. I was desperate enough to call my acupuncturist, even though I assumed she would think I was either a. crazy, or b. looking for a reason not to pay for my session. Neither was true, and I wasn't even remotely convinced that the acupuncture had caused the headache. It was simply the only factor in my life that had changed, so I wanted to cover all the bases.
I felt a bit embarrassed asking about a possible link between my headache and the session, but to my surprise my acupuncturist was warm, receptive and responsive. She told me to come in for a session to take care of the pain. I went in the same day, got back on the table, and waited for her to begin inserting lots of needles, as she did the last time. This time, however, she inserted a single needle in the back of my head, on the side where my head was throbbing, and gave it a few quick twists. Instantly, and I mean that very second, the pain just...popped, like a balloon, and disappeared. It happened so quickly that it took me a moment to register that I no longer had a headache.
"Whoa...what? What just happened?" I asked.
She very briefly explained that there are pathways of energy that run through the body, and that sometimes these pathways become stuck, which leads to pain and dysfunction. That needle, she continued, had unblocked the stuck energy, and now it was flowing smoothly. Of course all of this information is just a part of my life now, but at the time my mind was officially blown. I had never imagined that the healing powers of acupuncture could be so...dramatic.
I'm still thankful for that miserable headache, because it was proof positive to me that this stuff really works. If not for that few days of pain, I might have dismissed moving forward to study this medicine altogether.