Saying Goodbye to Acupuncture for Now

I don’t want t o give it up acupuncture. I do notice a slight difference and enjoy the attention. But since every Saturday I was having to get up a little earlier than I would naturally and since every week it was costing me $20 and I am currently more broke than ever, I simply can’t afford to keep going. I was noticing the biggest difference in my left wrist. And although I think it’s probably worth the money and time, I’m just so concerned with money right now that I can’t rationalize doing something that’s only making a slight difference. Maybe I’ll go back in the future but so far, unless money is no object, the benefits are not extraordinary enough. Supplements are so costly and I spend a TON on them. So that’s where I’m at. I do feel sad about it because I know it was helping a little. It was definitely improving my life, but I would only recommend acupuncture to people with RA who are near remission. Otherwise, it will probably just make your symptoms worse. I always flared during the visit. But the after effect of less inflammation was worth the flare. In the past however, when I wasn’t on alternative meds and tried acupuncture, I had a terrible flare that lasted weeks. It was awful! So again, I would only recommend acupuncture to those who are doing well with their disease and trying to ease smaller symptoms but not to people who are in the middle of a healing crisis, or worse, still looking for the right cocktail altogether.

Accupuncture Visits for Rheumatoid Arthritis

I admit it, I’ve done a terrible job keeping up with posts on how acupuncture is going for me.  So rather than waiting to write a post where I tell you exactly how many visits I’ve had and what’s happened at each one, etc., I’m just going to take the easy road and make it simple.  I’ve gone to every Saturday appointment except for two and last Saturday I got a parking ticket….so much for letting that relaxed feeling linger……

I can tell you that whenever I do go in for acupuncture, I get a flare during the visit.  You might think that sounds terrible, but to me I think of it as progress.  Anything natural will make you flare up, it’s just part of the process.  And that’s the hardest part really, is how to tell the difference between something that is making you worse or something that is making you better when they both have the same reactions.  This excludes immune suppressive drugs because they work entirely differently.

Within an hour usually, my flare subsides and lately I feel fairly great for a few days before the inflammation comes back to its normal state.  I would definitely say the acupuncture is making a positive difference, however it’s very slight.  I’ve decided to keep going however, based on theory.  So here are my theories on why I should keep going to acupuncture:

1.  Acupuncture increases endorphins.  Endorphins help heal the body.  Therefore, I must be doing some, even if it’s small, amount of healing during the visit.

2.  Acupuncture increases circulation.  Over time, perhaps increasing the circulation will make a bigger decrease in the amount of inflammation in my body.

3.  Even if the decrease in inflammation is very slight, it is still something.  And perhaps that small amount will slow down the erosion and disability.

4.  The Placebo effect.  As long as I don’t get any more parking tickets, perhaps the placebo effect of thinking the acupuncture is helping somewhat, will help decrease the inflammation.

Michael has been using a Chinese technique that would make some people cringe where you prick near the fingernail with a needle in certain spots (on a few of the fingers on each hand) and cause your hands to bleed for a moment.  Maybe that doesn’t sound fun to you, and it isn’t really.  It’s nothing compared to RA pain.  I do, in all honesty feel like it is decreasing the inflammation more so than it was before he had tried this technique.  I was glad that he was open to asking me if I’d like to try it because most people would probably be against the idea.  To me it makes logical sense as well, that it would increase circulation.

So there you have it in a nutshell.  I’m going in tomorrow and this time I’ll circle around for 10 minutes if I have to so I can find a parking spot that doesn’t allow for any more cruel tickets.  I hope you all have a great weekend and thanks as always for visiting!

The Blame Game

From experience when it comes to having RA, it’s easy to play the blame game when a flare happens.  You ask, “what caused this?”   And if it’s not you asking the questions, then perhaps it’s your spouse, your family member or your co-worker.  Most of the time,  you don’t know the answer of what causes a flare.  If you did, you’d stay away from it.  You’d stop talking to your mother if that meant you’d never have RA again.  And sometimes you have a pretty good suspicion of what just threw your body into wicked pain and disability.

I was already feeling run down but I had to make it to a 40th birthday party.  It was important,  I couldn’t miss it.  If I could do it all over again, I’d still have gone but I would definitely change a few things.

I was human.  I made typical mistakes.  I pushed myself too hard.  I drank too much,  I danced too much.  I got too little sleep.  I ate all the wrong foods the next day:  soup with noodles, bread and then pizza.  It was all to calm down the acids in my stomach, quiet the nausea I had and the dizziness from drinking WAY too much and also comfort myself because I felt so ill.  My pounding head was keeping me from thinking any rational thoughts anyway.  I’m sure my headache wasn’t just from the hangover.  It had been hurting for days before I made it official.  My RA wasn’t bothering me (yet) probably because alcohol thins the blood.  The funny thing is, I had been avoiding alcohol for quite some time.  So when the party came, I decided to give in a little.  And you know, once your inhibitions are down, this is when your choices can really go out the window.  In the late evening when I reached for another cocktail rather than water, that’s when things became tipsy-turvy.  And when that sweet drink went down and I was STILL thirsty, I reached for one more.  Of course at this point, I was too buzzed to talk myself out of it.  I could still stand.  What was the harm in one more drink?  Actually, my mind didn’t even go there.  I just thought, “I’m thirsty……got liquid?”

If only the hangover could happen right then, so you can stop the drinking.  Instead, you just feel great and numb to any rational.  I didn’t drive home of course, but as a passenger, I felt like hanging my head out of the window like a dog.  Of course, it would have been for relief, not for enjoyment and yes, my tongue would have been sticking out.  To make matters worse, I’m one of those people that actually holds everything in, no matter how sick I am, poisoning my body far worse than most.  Most people share in the ritualistic experience of expelling the poisons.  I on the other hand, could probably swallow hydrogen peroxide and keep it down.

That was Saturday.

Sunday was spent nursing my hangover.

When Monday came around I was in a horrific flare.  I knew it was everything that I had done wrong:  too little sleep, all the wrong food, coupled with all the sugar from the alcohol and did I mention, alcohol is a poison?  Oh yeah, you know that already.  Bread, pasta, everything I ate that day was inflammatory, at least, according to my reading it is (current pick is “The Inflammation Free Diet Plan”).  And here in lies the blame game.

So yes, that morning when I got up to go to work and my stiff neck, rocks under my feet and wrists that felt like they were in a torture device trying to pull them apart, were all slowing me down and keeping me from getting to work on time, I played the blame game.  I blamed myself for making wrong decisions that night and the next day.  I blamed myself for the sleepless nights on the weeks before the party that made me run down.  I blamed myself for all the exercise I skipped for a couple of weeks because I simply felt tired and lazy.  I blamed myself for all the supplements I forgot to take.  And I went into work feeling angry and frustrated for all the things I’m suppose to avoid and all the things I’m suppose to do to quiet my condition.  And I felt embarrassed that maybe I could have avoided this.  There was no skip in my step, no ambitious agendas ahead of me.  It’s not enough to have RA, you’re also suppose to be great at eating all the right foods, getting good sleep, living a stress free life and getting exercise, haven’t you heard?  It’s tiring avoiding things and trying to stay on the straight and narrow.  It’s tiring taking supplements.  It’s tiring just knowing that there’s never a real break from any of it.  And yes, I still have yet to try Yoga.

I’m still in a flare but at least I can turn the steering wheel now without wincing (as much) and without the staccato jerky turn only a person who probably shouldn’t be driving might do.  At least I can view my computer screen again without the blurry vision that accompanies me when I’m in a really bad flare.  And at least I can finally put my arms to my sides without feeling like my wrists are being pulled off.  And in no way does this flare compare to ones of the past where the pain and disability made me crazy.

I’m still tired however, hoping things will somehow change, hoping one day I’ll reach remission.  I think I’m learning, slowly but surely. ……….. Oh hey, will you pass that bread?  ……..but I will probably never be perfect.  After all, I am human.

Acupuncture: My Second Visit To Culver City

I just wanted to give an update to those of you following my acupuncture visits.

It was another early morning for me, on a Saturday, to which I’m not used to. Of course, to the average person, 11 a.m. is not early. But I’m working part time right now and my hours do not require me until later in the day. This is a farther drive than my work, so it’s even earlier than I’m used to getting up. Since I would normally sleep in on the weekends, getting up at 9:30 to make it to the 11 a.m. appointment is not easy for me. I’m hoping I get used to this. And for those of you that don’t understand why I would need so much sleep, let me explain it like this: My body works hard at destroying what it can during the day. It tries to damage my joints, ligaments and organs. So sleeping is a chance to undue some of that damage, or if nothing else, give my body some time to rest from RA’s damaging effects. So yes, because I’m a natural night owl, waking up with to the loud “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP,” is fairly hellish.

But I’m on a quest. And that quest is to find out if I can stop the inflammation in my hands and feet. And if the answer is acupuncture then GREAT, and if it isn’t, then I’ll keep looking. I think Michael is a talented physician and if nothing else, he’s very sympathetic and caring. When I first sit down for evaluation, he takes a look at my hands and feet, and without hesitation, touches the inflamed joints trying to feel for any improvement. He asked me if there was any change in my joints after my first visit. I told him that for about one hour, my joints in my hands, not feet, were stiffer and more painful but after that hour, they seemed to have less inflammation than normal. He told me this can happen and not to worry and this is part of the natural healing process. Knowing this already, I wasn’t worried. I know from all the supplements I take that getting more inflammation at the beginning of a treatment can and often does, make you temporarily worse. So the fact that this had made me worse for only an hour, I thought, “Piece of cake”. Again however, he chose to only do acupuncture on my hands and feet, in fear that I might experience what I had the very first time I visited a different physician, which ended up in a three week flare. He wants to take things slow with acupuncture so that not only do I get improvement, but don’t have to deal with unexpected inflammation.

Again, two needles on each hand were placed in the raised parts of my palms. And again, needles were placed in my feet but in slightly different spots. I experienced pretty near the same thing as the last time…. Pain and inflammation seemed to increase during the treatment in my hands. My feet again, for one reason or another, did not experience any pain or inflammation. This time I was surprised that the inflammation in my hands lasted only about a half an hour (after treatment) and for the rest of the day I experienced less inflammation and more relief than my average day. My feet seemed to be unchanged. I do have a couple of spots on the outer parts of my feet…the bunions that are inflamed ever since RA began. So I have no idea why these spots aren’t “awakening”.

I believe in giving everything a good shot and at $25 a session, I can’t refuse this kind of opportunity. I plan on sticking with this for at least one month, if not two, depending on my finances. I hope sometime soon that I can share with all of you, a story of amazing relief from the acupuncture. But if that doesn’t end up happening, then if nothing else, I’m relaxing, truly relaxing for that hour each time I visit. I have a good feeling however, that I will experience tremendous relief from this, so I’m keeping my hopes up! If anyone has a story to share, please do!!

2nd Shot at Acupuncture

This morning I drove half an hour to try Acupuncture again.  I had tried it once before for $50 at a Korean venue located near Hollywood, California.  That experience had been very relaxing.  The needles for the most part, didn’t hurt and I was hopeful that this could reduce inflammation in my Rheumatoid Arthritis.  At the time, I was taking Methotrexate and Prednisone.  Soon after my appointment, I started to flare up.  At that time, I knew nothing about how alternative medications can and often cause an exacerbation of symptoms.  My flare lasted three weeks and I did not go back.

In hind-sight I realize that my flare was just the healing process when using natural therapies.  It was just an average day and I felt like looking into acupuncture again because it’s something I wanted to try once more in the future.   Before I got to far into my research, I came across an acupuncturist who was offering services “at an affordable sliding scale”.  For me, I hadn’t even considered going back anytime soon.  My full time job has gone down to part time and I’m currently looking for more work.  But with services being offered for as low as $25, I took it as a sign that maybe I should go in for treatment.  After all, I don’t HAVE to have conditioner for my hair for a couple of weeks.  I could just survive on saved bottles from old visits to hotel rooms of both shampoo and conditioner.  I could cut back on spending for groceries, etc.  Reducing inflammation in my hands is top priority for me, so why wouldn’t I figure out what I could do to make it happen?  I decided it was worth the tighter squeeze in my budget to give acupuncture another shot.

I told Michael, the acupuncturist, about my previous experience.  He decided we should take it slow.  For this trip, he inserted needles only in my hands and feet.  He said that acupuncture is sort of like, “stirring up the mud in the water” and it gave me a clear vision of a shallow muddy pool being stirred up until it was a thick, murky brown.  I also told him that I had been taking conventional RA drugs when I tried acupuncture before and that now I was on supplements to control inflammation.  He felt that perhaps this time I would not flare up like I did because I have already spent so much time detoxing my body.

The visit: My experience before was in a large building, set with a receptionist, several doctors on hand, ringing phones, a waiting room, and when I went in, I had a diagnostic machine that claimed to tell me which organs in my body were not working correctly.  To this day I wonder if there was any truth to that.  Since that had been my first and only visit to acupuncture, I was surprised but not disappointed to arrive at a quaint town-house and I settled in to a cozy room.  It was personal, lovely and I felt confident that Michael knew exactly what I was trying to accomplish.  The needles were chose carefully.  Just a couple were inserted into the palms of my hands and a few to each of the tops of my feet.  Michael told me the needles in my palms were points specifically found to reduce inflammation in arthritic hands.

Next time we would do more, but for now, no need to stir up the mud in the water too much.  As I lied there, I could feel some activity happening.  My feet weren’t changing in sensations, but my hands were stirring up the mud.  They started to become a little stiff and I could feel pain starting in on my wrists.  I was amazed that just two little needles on each palm could have such a big effect.  (My hands generally don’t feel pain but used to before my change in therapy).  I was worried that I’d have very swollen hands and wrists for the rest of the day.  I took some deep breaths and told myself, “give into the process”.  I finally relaxed, settling into a comfortable state, listening to the beautiful music and enjoying the ambiance.  When the experience was over, I set up another appointment for next Saturday and drove back home.

I was a little more swollen on my way home, just in my hands.  But as the day progressed, the swelling ceased, and my hands feel a little less inflamed than usual.  It could be a placebo effect since I know that acupuncture usually doesn’t work this quickly.  Still, I’m happy about my experience and excited about the prospect of fixing the tail ends of my inflammation once and for all.  Maybe THIS will really work.  In the meantime, I plan on telling all of you everything about it!

Health before Wealth

Recently I was talking to my mom about the newest thing I’m thinking of trying. It’s suppose to balance the pH of your water, along with add electrolytes and minerals. (see link) She asked, “How can you afford to take all of these things?”

The truth is, financially I can’t really. I’m stretched as thin as a rubber band, ready to break at any moment. These are hard, economical times.

On the flipside, can I afford to NOT keep trying new therapies in hope that remission will soon be giving me a high five at my doorstep? Sure I’m feeling great in a sense that I’m completely functional with RA. But as long as I’m not in remission, there’s still damage being done. I’m thinking long term. It’s the same as keeping up on your teeth cleaning. If you don’t, you could end up with some serious tooth decay, along with heart conditions and toxins invading your body. What kind of damage is happening to my hands long term? And there’s no guarantee with conventional drugs either that you can skip out on the deformities. Just clue into a recent post and you’ll see that hand deformity is just like the disease itself in that it varies from person to person. So you have to do your best to get inflammation under control no matter what you’re taking. Even if you’re taking DMARD’s and Biologics, you have to consider that eating right and exercising would be a wise, helpful choice since these medications can raise cancer risks, among other things. Our bodies are long term investments.

From time to time expense comes up as a topic in my RA support group. The idea of going organic, buying fresh food vs packaged, and taking supplements that can improve overall health seems too expensive to some. Most people embrace the burden of the extra costs, but a few need encouragement that long term, investing in the right foods and supplements will save money. This is particularly tough when a lot of us, including myself are living paycheck to paycheck. What you pay now at the grocery mart will help determine the costs of your future medical bills. Just like I am spending money on supplements, rather than movies or haircuts, I’m figuring that the money I spend now could make for a less expensive health bill in the future. Not only that, but the better I feel and the more that I can do, the better chance I have at making more money in the future, simply because I’ll be able to keep up a career and hopefully advance in that career.

So my motto is, when you’re trying to decide what to eat for lunch and your choice is a hamburger on the doller menu or that organic salad with grilled, free range chicken that were raised without antibiotics….. choose the latter. Because in my opinion, you’re going to be paying for your health in one way or another.

Trusting Your Doctor

I was speaking with a friend who just got results from her doctor, saying her liver enzymes were raised. The doctor advised her not to drink any alcohol. I immediately asked, “Are you taking Ibuprofen?” I knew her knee had been hurting her, and she wasn’t one to avoid over the counter medications. Her response was, “but my doctor said Ibuprofen would not raise my enzymes like that.”

I feel like I’ve heard this type of story a hundred times. You or a friend go to the doctor and something is wrong, and the doctor never gets to the bottom of it. Why? In many cases, I think the reason is because some doctors fail to listen or ask questions. They’re on a time schedule. They do a quick assessment. They make assumptions.

Though I’ve had some great doctors in my life, I’ve been disappointed just as many or more times. One of these visits was when I was fifteen. I had my wisdom teeth out. They weren’t quite in yet, but because of previous braces,it was suggested to remove the roots of the wisdom teeth before they formed, so my other teeth wouldn’t become crooked again. And despite how many times I went to the orthopedic surgeon to tell him I was in severe pain and something wasn’t right, he disregarded it, handing me heavier pain medications. He gave me codeine. The codeine didn’t help much, the pain was so severe. Finally, on my last visit, the surgeon realized I had an infection.  After a few days of antibiotics, my pain was gone! Had I simply believed the doctor was right and my pain was just a result of recovery, what could have happened if the infection had lasted longer?

For my friend, I knew she had gone in to see the doctor because her knees were bothering her. She’s a dancer and her dancing is very hard on her knees. I asked her how much ibuprofen she was taking each day. Knowing painkillers don’t work that great when you’re having chronic severe pain, I knew it was highly likely she was taking too much. It turned out she was taking over the maximum dosage. If the doctor had taken the time to really listen to his patient and ask questions, he would have figured this out. Instead, a patient with ill advice will continue taking the high dose of ibuprofen, further damaging her liver and her intestinal tract, later to find other chronic diseases up ahead.

I feel like our health system severely lacks preventative care. Without a doctor’s listening ear, problems go on unnoticed and as a result health care rises because ailments continue to spike. And when someone gets an ailment such as damaged intestines due to too much NSAIDs usage, autoimmune diseases like “leaky gut syndrome”, IBS, Crohn’s, Lupus, Fibromialgia and RA might be the result. Then what comes next? More painkillers, steroids and other various drugs that will further damage the body, causing more and more harm.

I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say what’s best. And because everyone’s chemistry is different, it’s hard to say how some people will react. But I do think that other choices are out there before you hit the drugs. Exhausting those choices first, in my opinion, is your best bet. For my friend, I can think of a few options off the top of my head that could help. Strengthening the muscles around the knee offer as a natural knee brace. I would suggest that she stops the painful movements in her dance class for a while and instead, works on reinforcing the muscles surrounding her knee. I would make this physical therapy a top priority and a continuous effort. Next, I would use a cream that’s great for the knees and will help bring down the inflammation. And when she’s resting at home and in pain, I would recommend that she elevates her leg and wraps an ace bandage around her knee to help push the swelling out.

Beyond that, of course there’s supplements that will reduce the swelling in her knee instead of using painkillers. For her liver, I would suggest considering three supplements that help the liver function. That I know of, those are milk thistle, N-acetylcysteine and SAM-e. SAM-e is particularly great because it would help her knee and her liver. N-acetylcysteine is a little more complicated because it pulls out toxic metals and requires additional vitamin C. Taking a supplement like Ultra Antioxidant from pro-health would cover the basics of what’s involved with this supplement in particular.

In the end, it’s important that you trust your doctor. If your doctor is not listening and not asking questions, life is too short…find one who will!

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