The practice of acupuncture has been traced back as far as the Stone Age. The earliest known writings about acupuncture were published in second century Chinese medical books. And still, in modern day Western society, there are those who regard this ancient, proven medical practice as a reason for skepticism and raised eyebrows.
Billions of Chinese people around the world aren’t wrong. There’s a reason that this admittedly off-putting practice of sticking thread-thin needles into key, corresponding points in your body has been so popular for this long. Quite simply, I believe it works. And having just tried it for the first time – I totally plan to try acupuncture again.
My first interest in acupuncture came in Miami, when a friend with chronic back problems swore on his life that acupuncture had healed him of his pains. “Dude, just try it!” he encouraged. But despite stress levels that led to high blood pressure, bouts of nausea, and an ulcerated stomach, I still never listened. I went the traditional route, and was prescribed medicine to treat my symptoms. I tried to eat healthier and well…my efforts at exercise never took root and truly became the “lifestyle” I keep hearing it has to become. But that’s another post for another time.
The first opportunity I had to actually try acupuncture came when I was on board Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas. That’s where I met Alaric Toy, the licensed acupuncturist who has a constant flow of enthusiastic patients in the ship’s spa. He told me all about the popularity of the acupuncture at sea program, which is currently offered on all the major cruise ships. He spoke passionately about HR646, a senate bill that aims to get acupuncture covered by medicare. And he explained what acupuncture could do for me, to improve my own condition.
“There’s an old Chinese saying — where there’s pain, there’s blockage. Where there’s blockage, there’s pain. The US Air Force is using battlefield acupuncture right now, because it offers almost immediate results. It gives you a sense of well being that can’t be measured. You’ll start sleeping better, eating better, makng better choices for yourself. I’ve been able to resolve the problems of people with pain issues who have had chronic pain for 15, 20 years,” he said assuredly. But despite the opportunity literally staring me in the face – I wasn’t yet ready.
It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago, that I found opportunity staring me in the face yet again. Spa Week Daily wanted to send me to the spa to experience one of their $50 Spa Week treatments as part of SPA MADNESS. And lo and behold — amidst the vajazzling and Botox and facials and body scrubs…there was the offer for me to experience acupuncture at Chicago’s renowned Ruby Room. This time, I leapt at the chance.
The Ruby Room is not your typical spa. Oh sure, you can do typical spa things and get a facial, a massage, waxing, or a new hairstyle. They’ve got an amazing array of makeup and beauty products for sale, and you can get your face beat by a pro using lovely, high end cosmetics. The decor is clean, refreshing, and airy. There are absolutely stunning statues of Buddha everywhere. But then, you go up the steep red stairs, and the ambiance becomes more spiritual. The second floor of the Ruby Room is all about enhancing your internal beauty, and tapping into your spiritual center. There are crystals and tarot cards and Chinese herbs, and people there are ready to teach you how to apply those things to your life.
That’s where I met my acupuncturist, Pamela. Her approach was far different than the licensed acupuncturist I’d met on the cruise ship – he was more matter of fact, and the ambiance where he worked seemed almost clinical and spare – I felt very aware there that acupuncture is medicine, and it’s power is not to be underestimated. At the Ruby Room, acupuncture is performed in the same space where intuitives work with crystals and the general ambiance is very gentle and quite mystical. I found the contrast fascinating.
As a newbie to acupuncture, I found Pamela’s demeanor to be very comforting and nurturing. Before the procedure began, she gave me a detailed diagnosis, and in acupuncture that begins with a look at your tongue. Just from looking at the color and possible coat on your tongue, an acupuncturist can tell if there are graver issues taking place within your body. Pamela proceeded to explain some basic layman’s terms for what my issues could be attributed to. Chinese medicine is very much about achieving a perfect balance. There’s yin and yang, which just about everyone knows about. But there is also dry and damp – she sensed alot of damp within me. Pamela explained the Zangfu organs, and why she’d be putting certain needles in certain places. And then it was time for my treatment.
In general, I’m not particularly nervous about needles — unless I’m giving blood and I can see the blood filling up in a bag, I can block out the pain and fear of getting stuck. But I had reservations with acupuncture. Were these needles going to hurt? Would I wind up with needlemarks in my face? OMG, were there going to be needles in my face?
Yes. And I barely felt a thing.
The first needle went into my upper right ear, and I could hear it more than I could feel it. Acupuncture needles have teeny springs on the end, and I could hear the little zing as it went into my skin. The second needle went into my forehead. After that, I lost count. I know there was one in my right arm, one in my left hand, at least five in my stomach, and several in my legs and feet. But the only ones I could truly feel and felt aware of, were in my arm and my hand – that’s because I had to position them carefully and kept worrying they’d fall off the massage bed I was laying on.
If you want to get acupuncture and you’re concerned about needles hurting, please know that you shouldn’t worry. Quite literally, I fell asleep at the Ruby Room with a pincushion’s worth of needles sticking out of my face and body. Of course there were teeny drops of blood where I’d been stuck, but nothing hurt about this procedure. At all. In fact, just the opposite.
So let me explain the before and after. The morning before I left for my acupuncture treatment, I was more stressed out than I’d been in a really long time. I was so stressed out, I was nauseous. I took my blood pressure and it was indisputably high. I had to force myself to even relax enough to eat breakfast, take a shower, get ready, get on the el and head over to the Ruby Room.
After acupuncture, I immediately felt better. Restored. At ease. The issues that made me stressed out to begin with were still there, but seemed less oppressive and overwhelming. I came into the Ruby Room with zero appetite, and I left feeling ravenous. And maybe I even looked on top of the world, because three random strangers gave me compliments on the street when I left. So admittedly, I left my first acupuncture experience with a complete afterglow and the desire to return for more.
Of course, I was covering this for SpaWeekDaily.com –so I was sure to capture the experience on camera, and asked my acupuncturist some questions I got via Twitter.
Will I experience acupncture again? Definitely! It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. I hope my experience helps to answer any questions you may have, and if you’re in Chicago, I highly recommend the Ruby Room – 1743 West Division Street, 773-235-2323. Visit RubyRoom.com. If you’re not in Chicago, make sure your acupuncturist is licensed!
If you are interested in experiencing acupuncture – or any other kind of spa treatment! – you can start booking appointments March 15th, when the Spring Spa Week directory launches onSpaweek.com !