I recently went to my yearly checkup with the Nurse Practitioner that I have seen for 25 years.  She promised that this time we would sit down and talk about pain.  However, when she finished with all of my usual procedures, she merely said that I should continue to take Symbacort, and Aleve.  She advised me to call the same Orthopedist I had spoken to a year ago and ask him about recovery time for hip replacement.  I have indicated to her that I can’t get hip replacements because I have just started a new job and she estimated recovery time of 4-6 weeks.  New employers don’t take kindly to new employees that suddenly take off 4-6 weeks. She said that, if I called him, he could probably figure out a way that I could get it done in less than that.  He was the same man who refused to do hip injections on me a year ago, disappointing me terribly.  I had no wish to speak with him and disappoint myself again.

I share an office with 3 other women and they attacked me after my checkup.  They said that I have been slowly sinking before their eyes.  The positive, excited woman who took the job 3 months ago was fading.  They said it was time for action.  One of them has a college professor who has my same issue with Artie.  The professor had acupuncture treatments and was later able to climb to the top of the Great Wall of China and hike for miles.   H-I-K-E was the magic word!! She would not leave me alone until I called my insurance company to see if acupuncture was covered (it is), got a referral for a doctor, and made an appointment.  2 hours later I had scheduled an appointment, and was now considering the fact that I was going to have pins stuck into my body two days later. YIPES!!

In a way, I was excited.  This was a new adventure into a world I had never experienced.  In college, one of my specialty areas of research was the history of China, Japan and So. East Asia.  One night in class we were shown a film of people going through surgery with only acupuncture for anesthetic.  They even removed the top of a man’s head to take out a tumor. My squeamish stomach was a bit sick, but I toughed it out.  Now, here I was trusting those same pins to help the pain in my hips. Adventure…trepidation…hope…fear.  I had the gamut of emotions.

When I got to the office, we started by filling out papers.  We isolated the areas of the right hip, the left hip and the right shoulder as areas of focus.  Then I lay down to begin our first session.  The first action was to place a pin at the widow’s peak in my forehead.  That would serve as the anesthetic, he told me.  It was a shock to have a pin in my forehead, when the effected area was a hip.  But, I remembered that acupuncture is successful because the doctors know which muscles are effected by which other parts of the body.

He then went on to place pins down the outside of my right leg, starting at the hip.  My knee had been hurting, so he put many pins in the knee area.  There were pins in my left and right ankle.  At this point he attached something to the pins (I think – it was hard to see).  He told me that it was going to feel like something was moving, but it wasn’t really moving.  He turned off the lights and put a dim lamp on, right above me.  He told me to take a nap, and he left me for half an hour.

The pins didn’t hurt as much as I had imaged they would.  Most of them were fairly shallow, however he did go back to them and push them further in, which is the main time that I felt pain.  But, my philosophy was that nothing about those pins could hurt as badly as my hip.  Several times he asked me if I could take the pain, and I assured him I could.  After all, I had been a distance backpacker and rock climber for most of my life, both sports which provided a lot of pain.

It did feel like there was something moving on my body, from pin to pin.  It turned out to be electrical impulses.  I asked him how they did this in ancient China, and he said they used their fingers to massage around the pins.  I think I’m glad that we can do this electrically instead, because the finger massaging around the pins sounds painful.  I found that, the more the impulses wore on, the more relaxed I became.  I started out with my hands resting on my stomach, and they eventually dropped off my body and hung limply off the table.

When he came back at the end of the half an hour, he removed the pins and used lotion on the areas that were effected.  Then he had me get up and he asked me to walk down his hallway, lifting my knees high.  I told him I didn’t think I could do it, but he told me to try.  He asked for ten high steps, and I was only able to give him seven…but I was amazed that I could give him one.  He showed me how to do sort of a dance step for exercise, swaying back and forth from foot to foot.  I usually use my exercycle every morning, but he said that I should not do that now.  I made my next appointment and moved (fairly quickly) out to call my husband from my car.  “I can walk!!”  I told him and he responded ecstatically. It must be hard to be the husband of a wife that has trouble walking and gripes about it all the time.

Now, let me tell you what NOT to do after an acupuncture appointment.  Don’t spend time walking around the King Tut exhibit, and then go to a football game at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.  Don’t get lost looking for your seats and climb a formidable flight of stairs.  Don’t find out that there are no elevators in the Coliseum and have to climb DOWN the same flight of stairs.  For the rest of the weekend my son and daughter-in-law walked me everywhere, because I was back to hobbling again.

When I returned for my next appointment, the Acupuncturist asked me how I was feeling.  When I told him, he said, “No more football stadiums.  No, no, no.”  In my willful urge to follow my family to their fun activities, I had set myself back.  That evening I was unable to do any high knee steps.  He had to undo everything I had done to myself.  We made another appointment for that week, as well.  This time he used a different electrical impulse machine.  This one had several different types of impulses that it used, and it felt like it was moving all over my legs.  This machine also seemed to be much stronger than the other one.  I moved my leg ever so slightly and was wracked with pain. I also had to endure  another lecture about my activities during the following weekend.  We had another football game planned, but it was cancelled due to the horrible air quality in the Bay area due to the fires.  He was glad to hear that.  He said that I am being treated for hip pain, and I have to remember my treatment and not be so active.  That’s very difficult since I have a very active family.  But I confined my activities to a dinner party in a restaurant, and spent most of my time sitting down.  Consequently, when I got up this morning I had an easy time walking.  I bought a cane last week – remember how I said it would be a beautiful, young cane made of natural wood?  Well that’s exactly what this one is.  I have named her Calamity Cane, and she and I are inseparable.  The Acupuncturist told me that I have to stop undoing the treatment he is offering me, and I quess he is right.  I probably set myself back a week, by going to King Tut and the football game.   I will try to be a better patient, and see where acupuncture takes me.


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