I did not grow up believing in or even knowing about natural medicines. My mom either told me to put Vicks VapoRub on everything or took me to the doctor to get pills. When I was diagnosed with asthma at twelve years old, I was taking multiple inhalers, and a few different pills. I played sports my whole life and the pills helped me participate more and kept my breathing under control. Basketball and softball were my favorite sports to play, and I also became a shot put, discus, and javelin thrower in high school. Due to the continuous use of my right arm, I developed tendonitis in my shoulder, and because I didn’t want to rest at the time, the injury started affecting my neck and upper back.
My doctor diagnosed me with “myofascial pain syndrome” when I was 17 years old. I honestly don’t even know if this is an actual diagnosis because it just means “muscle pain.” I had (and still have) muscle knots in my neck and upper trap muscles that flare up with overuse, stress or heavy lifting. It can be extremely painful and uncomfortable, causing disturbances with my school and work. I was sent to multiple physical therapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors. I was also given muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory medications. These medications made me tired and foggy, and my condition interfered with my work even more. I couldn’t concentrate and was constantly tired. Throw in a stressful job and the circle is completed.
I was at the point where I was sitting on an exercise ball at work to help relieve some of my back pain. My coworker, who had a completely different medical condition, suggested I try her acupuncturist.
No. That stuff is weird. How does it even work? I hate needles. I am afraid of needles. I’d rather sit in pain. Needles hurt. It’s probably not sanitary.
Those are just some of the thoughts that ran through my head at the suggestion.
But, I was desperate. So I went. And that first treatment was magical.
It was the first hour of my life in seven years that I felt no pain. I felt like I was floating. It felt like I had taken three of my muscle relaxers without the side effects.
After the treatment, my muscles were so relaxed just like after a massage. The difference was that it lasted for DAYS instead of hours. As I continued to get weekly treatments, the longer the effects would last. Three months later I was pain-free, painkiller-free, and off a lot of my asthma medications! For me it was literally a miracle.
I ended up leaving my stressful job and was trying to figure out what to do with my life. I loved Seattle (and still do!), but for the first time I was willing to move away if the right opportunity arose.
One random morning I woke up and decided I wanted to be an acupuncturist. I wanted to spread the news that this medicine wasn’t crazy or painful or ineffective. I wanted to prevent other athletes from taking unnecessary painkillers. I wanted to give people hope that their pain or other condition didn’t have to last forever.
That morning I researched and applied to two acupuncture schools. About a month later I had been accepted and told all my friends and family I was leaving Seattle to study acupuncture in San Diego, California. This came as a shock because I loved my city so much, I am a die-hard Seattle sports fan, and I was one of the only people that didn’t mind the rain.
I was so passionate about helping people and making a change that I thought it was worth it. And it was.
When I decided to become an acupuncturist, I had no idea how much schooling and training was involved. I already had a four-year BA from the University of Washington, and now I was in for another four-year Masters program.
We received extensive, hands-on training both in the classroom and in the clinic and were tested on our comprehensive knowledge of Chinese medical theory, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and “Western” or biomedicine on a regular basis.
Five years later I moved to England with my future (and now current) husband with an MS in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.
I always tell people to try acupuncture at least once. If it’s not for them, it’s not for them. But it can change your life like it did mine.