I'm reminded on at least a weekly basis that I'm not considered young anymore. I'm certainly not old yet, but I've officially entered that weird gray area where people are a little too quick to remind me that bumps and bruises don't heal like they did "when you were young."
So I'm no longer in the young crowd, not quite in the old crowd. I'm in the what-the-heck-is-that-and-why-does-it-hurt-all-of-a-sudden crowd.
People in that crowd are forced to find new and interesting ways to deal with nagging aches and pains. One of the options I'd always wondered about but never mustered the courage to try was acupuncture.
Well, at the Insider, I get to have my courage mustered for me.
As we've documented quite well in these pages, we never miss an opportunity for me to try something new/experimental/embarrassing. This time, though, when we decided to do an interview at Concord Community Acupuncture, I actually volunteered.
Full disclosure: I'm not a big fan of needles. I am the guy who has to look away when the doctor is drawing blood. And I've never donated blood because I'm certain I'd pass out if I had to spend that much time with something stuck in my arm (a fact that has been a source of endless mocking from my freewheeling, serial blood-donating wife).
Of course I knew that acupuncture needles were quite different, but I was at least a little apprehensive about having dozens of them stuck in my body.
The situation was aided by my pre-treatment chat with Jennifer Woolf, whose demeanor immediately set me at ease. She took note of my aches-and-pains complaints, told me they could handle it and ushered me into what they call "the big room," where a handful of recliners housed patients already undergoing treatment.
Being a community clinic, Concord Community Acupuncture treats several patients at a time, but it's easy to feel like you are by yourself. The large room features soft light, super relaxing music and white-noise machines. By the time you tip the chair back and close your eyes, you're halfway into the relaxation zone.
Which helped, because I didn't even notice most of the needles going in. There's a very small pinch in certain locations, but nothing that I would describe as pain. And as soon as Woolf left and I sat in the tranquil room for five minutes, I couldn't even tell there were needles in me anymore.
There are several approaches to acupuncture, including one that requires needles be inserted directly into the body part that's aching. The approach Woolf and her clinic prefers is different, with needles focused primarily in selected areas on your body based on what is hurting.
All the needles during my initial treatment were in my lower legs and feet and lower arms.
The best part of the treatment comes after the needles have been inserted, when you get to spend as much time as you need - 20 to 30 minutes was recommended to me - zoning out in the chair. The combination of the music, the lighting, the white noise and - one has to presume - the needles definitely mellowed me out right away. I didn't fall asleep completely, but I got pretty close.
The relaxing impact of the whole experience surprised me. I knew that was one of the effects of treatment, and I'm fairly mellow in general, but I honestly didn't expect to feel such a deep relaxation the first time in. But I left the office wondering if my arms and legs had muscles in them at all. It gave me a better understanding of what spaghetti must feel like.
In terms of pain relief, more treatments will be required to see any positive change. But the first treatment more than sold me on the stress-reduction benefits. And I've already been back twice since. (next page »)