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.

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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 –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 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 !


E-Fresh says:
March 14, 2010, 8:26 pm
Nice post B... I'm surprised there have been no comments. Here in Korea, acupuncture has been around for about 2,000 years. It is widely accepted as a legitimate medical treatment. Seems like the like the place you went to definitely infused a lot of new age into it for a different niche.
misslycia says:
March 15, 2010, 6:37 am
Thank you for sharing your positive experience, Afrobella. I went to an acupuncturist last year and it changed my life. I was having heart palpitations and wanted to go to an alternative health practioner to determine the cause. The doctor spoke with me for over an hour--we discussed what I ate, my job, my lifestyle and stress. I appreciated the comprehensive approach to treatment. Unlike you Afrobella, I am anxious about needles, lol. But I barely felt anything with thse treatments. I feel 110% better with acupuncture and would recommend it to everyone--for illness or general health maintenance.
Andrea says:
March 15, 2010, 8:13 am
Wonderful!! I appreciate your going into such detail about your experience with accupuncture. A friend had it done last year and she raved as well. I want to try as well and will be in Chicago next month {seeing Oprah!!} so this would be the perfect time to visit the Ruby Room and have it done. Thanks Patrice!
This Time Now says:
March 15, 2010, 9:00 am
Thank you, Afrobella for this post. @E-Fresh, love the acupuncture here in Korea as well. It's so inexpensive, a mere 5 dollars and I can leave the office very relaxed and happy and my insurance covers the cost. What's better than that? I wish someday very soon that acupuncture will no longer be considered Alternative Medicine in the U.S. Heck, I just hope that everyone in America will be able to have health insurance. Good for you Afrobella for seeking other treatments other than medication. Great post!
warrior11209 says:
March 15, 2010, 9:09 am
My husband had accupuncture as part of his recovery after having a stroke. The results were amazing! I remember being a little envious of him because the environment was so peaceful! He regained a lot of function in his effected hand as a result of the treatment. I may need to fulfill the promise that I made to myself that I would try accupuncture.
exquistiely black says:
March 15, 2010, 10:59 am
Ok, you've convinced me, I really want to give this a try. What does a typical session cost? Assuming this may largely depend on where you're sitting...
Mishara says:
March 15, 2010, 1:53 pm
After reading this I am now extremely interested in giving this a try. I look forward to learning more about "alternative" medicine. Side note: Any place where tarrot cards are read is a good place in my book :)
BlackBetty says:
March 15, 2010, 3:46 pm
I gave accupuncture a try once but can't remember if I had any great results. I'm a big fan of so called alternative medicines. Most of the time, traditional drugs leave you so groggy or riddled with side effects that you need more drugs to feel better. Bella take it easy. Stress will kill you, so please try to slow down!
Nia says:
March 15, 2010, 3:51 pm
I am so excited you wrote this post. Especially, since I am going to an acupuncturist next week for a knee injury, S.A.D, and reoccuring migranes. I iniitally had acupuncture a few years ago from a friend studying at Bastyr in Seattle. It helped with my migranes!! I hate needles. Yet, I slept right through the procedure. I dont recall feeling anything but PEACE! FYI If you have a large Chinese community in your area. Go to one of their markets. You will find a doctor/acupuncturist(typically in the back- follow the line of people). He will give you recommendations for teas etc.
Nia says:
March 15, 2010, 3:59 pm
PS.I no longer have health care after paying over $1000 a month. So, non traditional care works for me. They care about the WHOLE person, and arent just prescribing alot of expensive meds. Arent you tired of pharmaceutical companies controlling healthcare? Call your senators! We are the only industrialized nation w/out Universal Health Care.
SunCearRaye says:
March 15, 2010, 10:11 pm
Thanks for posting this! I'm currently a student of integrative nutrition and there is a strong emphasis on preventative healthcare as well as treatment of the whole person. I've had a thyroid problem for years and the DRs keep pushing medication. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine was the only treatment that revived my energy, concentration and weight loss. Unfortunately, I had to stop b/c of money. Hopefully that will change.
Dad says:
March 15, 2010, 10:50 pm
A very nice read; very informative and well written. I plan to take your mom soon to see how she takes to it. On another note, I really love your style of writing. I enjoyed this post. D
pets says:
March 15, 2010, 11:30 pm
Mom has slowly been leading up to accupuncture - we have her doing reflexology and more massages - her masseuse comes home to her - if you are based in Trinidad and reading this ask for Danielle at Body Indulgence, Angelina Court, Angelina Street, St. James tell her Petal & Patrice sent you. Some Chinese actually wear a bracelet that contains the needles so they self medicate.
Purple says:
March 16, 2010, 2:27 am
I've tried acupunture too for chronic allergies. It was very relaxing but the cost put me off it so I didn't complete the treatment. But I totally agree that it works.
Reese says:
March 16, 2010, 10:12 am
My coworker swears by this! She goes once a week. I might try this one day.
tycajam says:
March 16, 2010, 5:00 pm
Such a brave woman! :) I'm glad you had a good experience. Maybe some day I'll take the leap myself.
david says:
March 17, 2010, 1:19 pm
Someone commented earlier that acup. is inexpensive in Korea. Spa treatments are expensive in the U.S. But for several years now, there has been another option -- community acupuncture. Follow-up treatments within $15-40, in a group setting. See for a complete listing of clinics. Affordable for many people.
Holistic Locs UK says:
March 20, 2010, 6:12 am
Hey! What a great post. As a holistic therapist, I have always loved using different holistic techniques to keep healthy, I love this! I hope you don't mind but I posted up your video in my blog too ;o) Keep inspiring!
acupuncturegirl says:
February 26, 2011, 6:24 am
Find a community acupuncture clinic for quality service and a cost equivalent to a co-pay - no insurance required! It's a social justice movement where the acupuncturist only charges as little as possible - enough to pay the rent. find out more at my website: - under reasons to try acupuncture - "Community Acupuncture"
jomo says:
August 22, 2011, 9:00 pm
I happened to see your post, while looking for acupuncture positions abroad. I really appreciate what you posted regarding the contrast between the ship and ruby spa. as a private practitioner i get both sides and understand that there is a way to explain acupuncture/chinese medicine so that most if not all people would want to experience it. i'm in a transition and may consider doing the cruise ship circuit...its reads like a beast of a lifestyle from most practitioners view. thanks again for your blog. peace jomo
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Steph says:
August 16, 2012, 2:11 pm
I love acupuncture!!! Was introduced to it years ago after a slip and fall I had, and wow did it feel amazing. My acupuncturist knew all the right spots was very nimble and gentle and when she found a sore spot(rare!) she knew what she had to do to help the kink out. I want to get a set so I can do it myself but in the meantime extra small sewing needles have been the home remedy till I can buy a real set.
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