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Getting acupuncture for the first time

July 8, 2013 Updated: July 8, 2013 at 5:55 pm
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Faster than you can say the word acupuncture, I became a human pin cushion.

After debating it for years, I finally committed to an acupuncture appointment, and even followed through.

Can you relate? Here's my experience, in the hopes of making you feel better prepared to try it.

Acupuncture is said to be good for a number of health conditions, including aches and pains, side effects from cancer treatment, allergies, depression, stress-related issues and to aid in your general well-being. Thin needles are tapped into points on the arms, legs and other body parts.

Though many acupuncturists have been recommended to me through the years, I opted for Hannah Beachy, founder of Springs Community Acupuncture. I met Beachy about a year ago and liked her warm manner. She's a licensed acupuncturist, received a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine from the Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder and is certified by the National Certification Committee of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Chinese medicine and herbology.

Her clinic, which opened two years ago, runs a bit differently than most acupuncture establishments. This is community acupuncture, so instead of receiving your treatment in a private room, you're treated in a group setting. Payment is different here, too. The clinic operates on a sliding scale. A one-time initial intake fee is $10, and each treatment is $15 to $35 - you decide. There's no need to make an appointment - you can just walk in. If you want to make sure you get a chair, call or schedule online.

The darkened, air-conditioned treatment room consists of eight recliners draped in sheets. Beachy has a private office where you'll discuss your health concerns before your first treatment.

I didn't have any urgent problems to address, though I did mention I'd love it if my ulcer would heal (I gave up coffee for it!) and I could sleep eight hours every night without waking at 2 a.m. on the dot to mull over silly worries. Oh, and I might have mentioned my problematic sweet tooth, and its constant thirst for fruit sours.

Beachy's acupuncture protocol for me included basic points, including those for digestion. And in response to my sugar cravings, she prescribed the same protocol she uses for alcohol and drug addiction, though adapted for sugar. It helps with detoxing, she said.

She prescribed treatments (once or twice a week) and suggested stacking them closer together in the beginning so they can build on each other. For those who arrive with pain that's rated 9 or 10 on a scale of 10, she recommends a treatment every day.

Four of the eight chairs were occupied in the treatment room when I found a recliner and settled in. I was apprehensive. Would the needles hurt? How big are they? Would they make me bleed?

Beachy started with my right leg. Into my shin went the slender needles, almost like a sewing needle but thinner. She lightly tapped each one, then gave it the faintest of twists.

Three needles in my right shin and ankle, four in the left and three into each arm. One at the crown of my head, my hairline and between my brows. A needle in either side of my head behind the ear, and I was done. It took only a couple of minutes.

A few of the needles did elicit a brief ping when they went in, but the majority were sensation-free. I prepared to relax for at least 20 minutes, as Beachy suggested, though many of her patients choose to stay for 30 to 60 minutes. I closed my eyes and began to notice a tenderness behind my right ear where the needle was. The spot continued to throb - about a 3 on a 10-point pain scale. I almost asked for her to remove it but decided to wait it out, hoping this would cure me of visits to the Candy Bar downtown.

The throbbing eventually did calm, and Beachy later said that sometimes happens with a particular needle. That one was in a spot that could help with sleep, she said.

I didn't mean to, but it was so relaxing that I stayed for an hour. I didn't fall asleep, but I did enter a pleasant tranced-out state. When you start to feel antsy and alert, it's time to get up, Beachy said. She told me to make eye contact with her as she moved around the room, and quickly removed the needles. No pain there.

For the rest of the evening, I felt great - energetic yet relaxed. In the following days, I didn't notice any significant shifts in my health, which is normal. Sometimes you feel improvement right away, sometimes you need multiple treatments, Beachy said.

Verdict: Just call me "Hellraiser" - I"m going back for more.


Mulson's column appears biweekly in Health and Wellness. Email her


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