Monday, April 21, 2014

Reclaiming Acupuncture

A couple of years ago, I went to see an acupuncturist for the first time to see if he could help manage some of my autoimmune symptoms. It was such a good experience for me, that I wrote blog entries about it and continued with my treatments for about a year. It could have been longer, I forget...

However, at some point, I stopped going because I felt that I had reached an end point in terms of my improvement, and because I had started seeing a massage therapist who did trigger point massage therapy. At that time in my illness, the trigger point therapy seemed to be helping more and both modalities of treatment were out-of-pocket and not covered by insurance. I find this fact extremely disturbing in itself because out of ever single thing I have ever tried to manage my autoimmune symptoms, acupuncture and massage therapy were two of the most effective treatments.

Then eventually, I ventured into the land of integrative medicine and while some of it is covered by my health insurance, a lot of it isn't and that adds up after a while. So I put acupuncture on the back burner for a period of about two years, give or take.

Recently, I weaned off prednisone and started to have some nasty symptoms: fatigue like I have not experienced in well over a year, joint pain, constant menstruation (yes, that was fun), mood swings to go along with the messed up menstrual cycle, and overall just feeling like hell. It took all my energy to shower, get my daily basic tasks accomplished, and to get through the day without crying. And I mean a LOT of crying; for no reason. It felt like I was premenstrual ALL THE TIME! The days where I had to work, I would rest for a few days before and after each day I worked and I did nothing but get to work and my medical appointments.

I first thought this was all autoimmune related, but the menstrual abnormalities and mood swings made me think peri-menopausal otherwise. I also thought maybe it was from coming off the prednisone. I didn't think I was under a lot of stress, because I was very happy with my life, but when I objectively looked at what was going on in my life: publication of my first book, the new job, the upheaval in my church life, some personal issues, an upcoming trip, training for a recent road race, I did have a lot of stressors in my life. Most of them were GOOD stressors, but stressors all the same.

I didn't even know what to do about all this as I didn't know the exact cause. I was certain that the autoimmune stuff played a role, but I didn't think it was the sole culprit. I happened to have a scheduled appointment with my integrative medicine practitioner and I talked to her about it. Part of the problem was that I had stopped my low-dose naltrexone (LDN) because it was keeping me awake at night, which was making things worse. For the autoimmune symptoms we decided to go back on the LDN, but take it in the morning, and add back my boswellia supplement for the autoimmune symptoms as well.

She then told me she suspected I may have adrenal gland exhaustion (also called adrenal gland fatigue) from a combination of the prednisone and stress. It seemed to make sense to me. She prescribed a few specific supplements (Adreset and Adrenal) for adrenal gland support and also something to help regulate my adrenals, and subsequent cortisol levels, for sleep. I came home and researched adrenal fatigue and it was like seeing the past few weeks right in front of my eyes!

I was getting nervous because I was due to fly to Chicago for the SSF National Patient Conference in a week. Our plan was to give this treatment plan two weeks and if I was not getting better, or worse, I would have to go back on a small dose of prednisone for a while. Well, two weeks wasn't going to help me for the trip if I didn't get better. Then, it hit me on the drive home: why wasn't I back at acupuncture?

So I contacted my friends at The People's Acupuncture Clinic in Amherst, MA, which is where I used to go, and made three appointments  for the next week until I left for Chicago.

Best decision ever.

I went to my first appointment a wreck. I was so exhausted and in so much pain, I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for six months. Within a few minutes of the practitioner inserting the acupuncture needles, I began to feel a sense of calm and relaxation flowing through my body.

That morning, I could not even open my right hand all the way because of the joint pain and swelling. Four hours after my treatment, my hand was fine and I had NO JOINT PAIN.

Swear on a stack of bibles.

By that evening, I was still very tired, but actually managed to go out for a bite to eat with some friends after church.

By the next morning, I had finally stopped menstruating and didn't feel as moody.

Twenty-four hours later, I went for a run with my husband. It wasn't easy, but it was doable.

It has now been six days since I started my adrenal gland and autoimmune supplements and today, I had my second acupuncture treatment since starting three days ago. And, I am better. The mood swings are completely gone, my joint pain is significantly improved, I am sleeping better, my anxiety level is down, and overall, it feels like my body is moving its way back to a more even keel. I am certain the improvement  is due to the acupuncture and the integrative medicine treatment plan. I have also worked on other ways to treat the adrenal fatigue such as getting a lot of rest, no matter what is going on, and overall, just taking better care of myself.

I definitely am not in as good a place as I would like to be in, or was in, before this all blew up on me, but I am well enough to know that in 2 1/2 days, I will be able to make that flight to Chicago. The first thing I will do the day after I get back?

Go to my acupuncture appointment....

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you've managed to give up prednisone. That's a really scary drug. So very jolly well done.