I had my first acupuncture appointment today. The doctor was trained in both western and eastern medicine for 8 years in her native country of China.  She seemed bright and vivacious. Her touch was gentle but precise as she took my pulse, which was reassuring to me.

The needles were no big deal. I could barely feel her putting them in. They were left in for 30 minutes, during which I did relaxation breathing and occasionally reminded myself not to scratch my nose because my hands were full of needles that I couldn’t even feel. I was not even creeped out by the fact that she put one needle between my eye brows and another on the top of my head.

The 30 minutes passed fairly quickly. She skillfully and quickly plucked the needles from me like daisy petals. Then she ran her hands gently over my body to make sure that she’d removed all of them. I left feeling refreshed.

I am going to see her once a week for 6-8 weeks. We’ll see what happens!

In the meantime I have a couple of practical tips for those of you who might consider receiving acupuncture:

1) Use the restroom before your appointment. I ended up being fine but when she said, “30 minutes, you be okay?” after placing about 40 needles my first worry was that I would need to use the restroom. (Women, who have given birth and/or women of a certain age, you know what I am talking about.) In general, I am what I call an “opportunistic pee-er”. Just like I did with my daughter in the first few years after potty training, I often make sure that I at least “try” upon leaving the house or upon arriving at a new destination. Today, I didn’t because I came into the waiting room with a 20 ounce beverage. You might think that’s more reason to use the little girl’s room but although I’m not religious about it, I don’t like to bring food to the bathroom with me. I had planned to get settled in the waiting room and then scope out the facilities. But then I got absorbed in the paperwork and chatting with the fascinating woman who works in the waiting room. Although I did not make my usual potty stop, I ended up being just fine.

2) If the thought of needles creeps you out, I just want to remind a lot of you out there that you have endured much more invasive and creepy procedures in your medical treatments. This treatment was actually relaxing, pleasant, and blood free. And for bonus points, I didn’t even have to take off more than my shoes and socks! She just pulled up the legs of my yoga pants a little and pulled them down a bit at the waist.

3) Be prepared to talk about how you life, especially stress may have contributed to your disease and what methods you might use to reduce the stress in your life. I know that to some people, this approach feels like the patient is being blamed for their disease. I don’t take it that way myself but as a psychologist, I think of the brain (mind) as being part of the body, rather than being separate. So the idea that emotions, thoughts, or other “mind stuff” impact the way the rest of one’s body works is no news to me. To be clear, I don’t believe that disease is caused only be stress, attitude, etc.

It was pouring down rain this morning so I waited to take my walk. It’s beautiful so I’d better get going!