Needling Me

Years ago, as a young woman in my twenties (Could that really be at least 50 years ago????), I was horrified to discover I needed surgery for bleeding hemorrhoids. It was embarrassing, my younger self thought. It was private, my younger self thought. So my younger self looked for an alternative and discovered acupuncture. Not only would I be spared someone – even though that someone would be a doctor – dealing with private parts of my body, but I would also be spared the insult to the body that surgery can be… and my insurance covered it.

Hmmm, I was fully clothed and the needles didn’t hurt although I had expected the process to be painful. Best? I did get relief from the bleeding hemorrhoids and avoided the surgery.

Remembering that incidence today for some unknown reason, I wondered what – if anything – acupuncture could do for those of us with Chronic Kidney Disease. So, I went searching for information.  But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself – as usual. Let’s go back to talking about what acupuncture is.

Acupuncture is a form of medical treatment that’s been used for hundreds — even thousands — of years. Acupuncture originated in Asian medical practices. That’s why many licensure and oversight boards use the term ‘Oriental Medicine’ to classify acupuncture.

Acupuncture is practiced by tens of thousands of licensed acupuncturists. Expert acupuncturists train for three to four years. The training includes both instruction in the use of needles and instruction in diagnosing conditions. Practitioners have direct supervision from another senior or expert practitioner.

In addition to this training, acupuncturists must undergo testing from a national board of examiners and continue to take instructional courses each year to maintain their license.

The American Medical Association accepts acupuncture as a medical treatment, and some insurance companies may cover the cost of treatment.”

Thank you, Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/dry-needling-vs-acupuncture for the above information.

The University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, Center for Integrative Medicine in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at https://medschool.ucsd.edu/som/fmph/research/cim/clinicalcare/Pages/About-Acupuncture.aspx  had a succinct description of the process.

“First, your acupuncturist will ask about your health history. Then, he or she will examine your tongue’s shape, color, and coating, feel your pulse, and possibly perform some additional physical examinations depending on your individual health needs. Using these unique assessment tools, the acupuncturist will be able to recommend a proper treatment plan to address your particular condition. To begin the acupuncture treatment, you lay comfortably on a treatment table while precise acupoints are stimulated on various areas of your body. Most people feel no or minimal discomfort as the fine needles are gently placed. The needles are usually retained between five and 30 minutes. During and after treatments, people report that they feel very relaxed.”

PubMed, part of the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28422526 concluded via a small, fairly recent study:

“Acupuncture at bilateral Hegu, Zusanli, and Taixi for 12 weeks reduced creatinine levels and increased eGFR levels. The study only provided a feasibility method for the treatment of patients with CKD. However, the results of this preliminary study warrant further investigation.”

I think we all need a little help here to understand this conclusion. The three words we are not familiar with are all acupuncture points. The Acupuncture Massage College’s site at https://www.amcollege.edu/blog/commonly-used-acupuncture-points explained in language I could understand.

“Large Intestine Channel: LI4, Hegu
This point is located on the back side of the hand between the thumb and first finger. The primary use of this point is to relieve pain and treat inflammatory and feverish diseases.

Stomach Channel: ST36, Zusanli
This point is located on the front of the leg, just below the knee. It is helpful for digestive disorders. Research shows that using this point results in positive effects in treating anemia, immune deficiency, fatigue, and numerous diseases.

Kidney Channel: KI3, Taixi
This point is located just behind the inner ankle. It is used for disorders in several areas of the body, including sore throat, toothache, deafness, tinnitus, dizziness, asthma, thirst, insomnia, lower back pain and menstrual irregularities.”

Inflammatory? CKD. Anemia? CKD. Immune deficiencies? CKD.  Kidney? CKD. Now we know why acupuncture can help us. There seems to be a split among doctors as to whether it will or not, so you’ll have to be careful to talk to your nephrologist. Some will give you an emphatic, “YES!”  Others will give you a questioning look. And still others will ask you, “Why bother?” Be prepared with your answers. You don’t want to alienate the doctor in charge of your treatment and you want to keep the lines of communication open. Well, at least I do.

 

If you’re excited about the idea of acupuncture, you may be asking yourself how to find a good, safe practitioner. Sure you can look in the phone book, but – just as with any doctor – what would you know about how this particular acupuncturist functions? Before I had CKD, when I was plagued by another medical problem but had already moved to Arizona away from my NYC acupuncturist, I asked my stepdaughter about the acupuncturist she saw. If your nephrologist is onboard, you can ask for a referral. Sometimes, your primary care physician can be a good source here, too.

If you’re not excited about acupuncture, don’t push yourself. My husband tried it once to please me and swore never to do that again because he just didn’t like it. Okay, he has other ways of dealing with his back pain. While I am in favor of acupuncture and plan to incorporate this into my medical team once I’m done with surgery and rehab, I also like peace in the house.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!