Pills for Breakfast: I Finally Tried Acupuncture

Pills for Breakfast: I Finally Tried Acupuncture

I promise you I went into that acupuncture appointment with an open mind.

I mean, I really wanted to like the guy. And I really wanted the ancient Chinese remedy to actually be a viable form of treatment for me.

I decided to arrange the appointment after getting a text from my best friend suggesting I try it. She was about the 27th person to recommend it, so I took it as a sign and Googled “acupuncture” + “the name of the closest city.”

I called the first place that came up.

bigstock-acupuncture-chinese-medicine-treatment--c-25612319They had the word “medical” in their name, so I figured that must be sort of legit. I gave the receptionist my full name, address, and insurance information and set up a morning appointment in two days.

My mom says it’s a bad sign when they can get you in that fast. But I was in so much pain that I convinced myself it was because they just cared so darn much.

When the fateful morning arrived, my mom drove me to the appointment.

They started with the same type of stuff every doctor starts with: 30 minutes worth of paperwork and asking if my grandpa’s cousin’s dog ever had glaucoma or heart disease, which was followed by a nurse and vitals.

Finally, after being there for about an hour, the doctor came in. He was friendly enough, and as I went through the crazy winding story of how I ended up in his office after waking up with random rib pain last year — with no known cause — I really did hope he’d be able to magically fix me.

He listened to all the details, proclaimed that he “gets lucky a lot,” and asked me do a urine test right then and there. About three minutes after I submitted the sample, he came back in and said it showed that I had “leaky gut.”

That’s about when the crazy started. He launched into a speech on how I needed to go on a very strict diet for the next three months, and take piles of supplements, which I could, of course, conveniently buy from him. That, combined with acupuncture, would probably fix me.

Except the diet wasn’t gluten-free or vegetarian or fat-free. It was literally:

  • No potato
  • No dairy
  • No beef
  • No pork
  • No coffee
  • No sugar
  • No wheat
  • And nothing in a bottle, box, can or jar.

So basically chicken, broccoli, and three cups of fruit a day.

The doctor assured me that this was going to help me lose some of the weight I’d gained from the medications. Which makes sense, because anytime you give up four major food groups, you’re bound to lose some weight.

He had a handout on the diet and everything, which made me think it was the same diet plan he gave to all of his new patients, regardless of their condition.

Oh, and of course, he said I needed to start taking myself off all the prescriptions I was currently on, a little at a time, every two days. Except, you know, it took me more than a year to find the right drug regimen, and without them I’m in complete agony, no matter how many supplements I take.

Then, before I even knew what was happening, he started an acupuncture session on me.

I don’t know how that crazy rumor started about how you’re not able to actually feel the acupuncture needles because they’re so small, but it’s a bunch of crap. Not only could I feel every single needle, I also was bleeding when they took them out.

After poking me with at least 15 needles all over my body, ranging from my calves to my forehead, he said I had to do deep breathing for 20 minutes and then a nurse would be by to take the needles out.

As I lay there, I tried to stay calm and focus on breathing in and out, but 20 minutes is a long time. I spent most of it dreaming about the beef and cheddar sandwiches my mom and I were going to get after the appointment at the nearby Arby’s. Man, I love their fries. So yeah, the diet part probably wasn’t for me.

After the needles were taken out, the nurse did a two-minute laser treatment on my right side. The laser was never explained to me and it didn’t do anything for me, but it didn’t hurt, so whatever.

All in all, after everything, I didn’t feel one ounce better than I had before I walked in the door. Even so, I still was planning to come back for another appointment. I mean, I could be open to multiple acupuncture sessions if that’s what it took.

But as I sat down to schedule my next visit, the nurse tried to sell me all the supplements I supposedly needed to get better. Although they didn’t have everything the doctor had recommended to me in stock, what they did have came to $200.

When I tried to tell the woman that I don’t just have $200 extra dollars, she seemed annoyed that I wasn’t taking my health seriously. And when I asked if there was just one important supplement I could buy, she replied, “They’re all really important and they all work together.”

That’s when I knew I wouldn’t be back.

I paid my $35 for the urine test that I didn’t need, and another $30 for the co-pay I calculated in my head — just to be sure I didn’t get any follow-up bills from the place. Then, I made a follow-up appointment that I had no intention of keeping.

I really do wish getting better was as simple as eating less dairy, taking $200 worth of supplements, and having 15 needles stuck throughout my body a few times a week. But after enduring this excruciating pain for as long as I have, I know better than to buy the snake oil.

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell is journalist who lives in Byron, Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, watching “Burn Notice” episodes on Netflix and Snicker’s Bites. She has had pain in her right ribs since February 2013. It is currently undiagnosed.

Crystal writes about it on her blog, The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

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What he suggested to you for leaky gut sounds like the GAPS diet. I do know a few people who’ve been helped by removing some things from their diets, and using a protocol like this. And there is some actual medical research that links gut permeability to chronic conditions. Most do so only as a last resort. I don’t know if it actually works, but it wasn’t something he just randomly came up with.

John marlon

Some are not doctors. But others have a ph.d, daom, or like me a degree in medicine (BacSciMed), received after studying acupuncture full time five years in China, at medical college .As always, buyer beware!

This is great for the sake of folks in pain and odd body malfunctions who can benefit from options like Acupuncture. I need to simplify this topic to a few concepts that I hope will help. Acupuncture is not what everyone think it is after using it for 15yrs. It can actually be a diverse set of surgical tools and techniques that can be compared to just a single violin and an orchestra. Hey sometimes a violin is all that is needed but others will need the whole orchestra. Acupuncture is a surgical procedure with a fine wire and the target is disrupted muscle and connective tissues.

Depending on how complex the disrupted tissues it all you may need to do is touch the bundle with the needle and all returns back to normal — immediately and instantaneously. NO magic but miraculous, just like the human body is designed. In these cases the the patient will feel something like a “release, spasm, twitch or pressure – etc” not with a word that is in the pain category.

There is a transition zone where the tissues are more disrupted and sick and when the needle touches those bundles there will be a pain category like sensation. The patient will say “doc that hurts” and the provider should respond appropriately to assuage the discomfort. The the patient will guide the rest of the procedure. This transition must be overcome either by tiny steps over time depending on time, number of visits and the patients fortitude. Some patients will tolerate the sensations others won’t — it is their choice, but you must give them all of the options. In this transition if you do not feel “pain or discomfort” nothing may not be happening to move you forward.

The final transition is the most disturbing to the patients because nothing makes sense and the providers have not idea what to do. Treatment must continue but with a different tool that is where numbing medicine is needed like lidocaine and Travell/Simons/Rachlin/Hachett.
You numb the toxic sick mass with the agent, then you can work in the trigger points. Some patient can not tolerate this so I discovered laughing gas to settle nerves.

So all pain needs treatment, the earlier the better when these tissues can be restored with massage, yoga, stretching, rolfling, adjustments and (wellness, life changes, addressing the toxic element in stress life and nutrition).

This will shock some of you, I have patients who only want Travell type treatments because I have allowed them to determine which is the best options for their pain problem. I advocate this for all who have pain. Complex and many more questions that need to be answered, but without more reasonable minds and policies these changes will be slow.


Acupuncture is great when performed by a good practitioner. Just Lukie any medical practice there’s good bad and mediocre. Also it does take 6-10 tx to feel a true effect.


Kevin B. brings up a good point. Before you go to a an Acupuncturist check and see what your state laws require for someone to advertise as one. Put ,your state AND Acupuncturist Laws, in your search box. Then verify that the Acupuncturist you’re going to see meets that.

Kevin B.

I am very sorry that you had this experience. As an acupuncturist I can assure that this sounds absolutely nothing like the experience that you should have had seeing a fully trained licensed acupuncturist. This sounds more like another professional that may have taken a short course in acupuncture and now has added that into their repertoire simply to add income. Some MD’s and DO’s just do acupuncture without any training at all; assuming it is harmless. Everything about your experience is not what you should experience a real acupuncturist. Also, there are levels of training such as starting with the least amount of training to the most: registered acupuncturist (R.Ac.), licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.), licensed oriental medical provider (L.OM), doctor of oriental medicine (DOM), doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine (DAOM). You should always check the credentials and make sure they are registered with the national accreditation council (NCCAOM), which means that they sat for national board exams and passed.


Accupuncture is not magic. Nothing that helps with pain management is pain free or without cost or instant. The supplement seem questionable. Accupuncture alone may or may not work. That would depend on the problem. Even with pain meds, attitude determines outcome.

I’m disappoints at how people will use pseudoscience like it is all voodoo and belief that all medications work completely.

Those arguments have not scientifically based and are deceptive tactics away from the primary issues; Acupuncture, pain, pain therapy, myofascial pain or tissue pain, alternatives and the truth.

“Acupuncture” is deeply rooted in natural laws of biophysics, it was, will be and is good therapy.


As a licensed acupuncturist, I am sorry to hear about your experience. From what you have written, I would have been uncomfortable in your situation as well. Unless your acupuncturist is working very closely with your MD or specialist, it is never within his realm to tell you to come off your medication.

As to your experience with needling, acupuncture needles can pinch a little when they break the skin surface, and you are supposed to feel some sort of sensation: tingling, numbness, soreness and pressure are most common. When people say that the needle does not hurt, they are referring to a “sharp” and “stabbing” sensation. Any pain of that sort should not be tolerated.

I, again, am sorry to hear about your experience. While I am not located in IL, I will be happy to help you vet future acupuncturists to ensure a good experience.


That’s about it in a nutshell Ryan

Åsa Stenström

I think you had very bad luck with that acupuncturist. Not that I know much about acupuncture in USA, but I have visited a couple of them in Sweden.

First of all, the good acupuncturists knows Chinese medicine. There is a special branch of acupuncture that’s developed for western doctors which is all about pain relief – but it lacks a lot of the knowledge.

Then I am taught that a good acupunturist doesn’t want the needles to hurt. If they do, you just tell them and they will pull them out a little or even take it out and try a new spot. It’s a question of millimeters if it will hurt or not.

Ryan Lankford

So this is what pain management has come to in the US: push profitable pseudoscience, ineffective injections and woo onto pain patients, and avoid using medications that are proven to work…all because of some imaginary boogeyman and a government that is an enemy of our liberty.

This is an unfortunate encounter for many reasons but the ultimate one is that you do not seem to want to go back for a follow up. I’m disappointed that you may not give it a full set trial. I sense frustration reading between the lines so I can only assume which of the reasons you mentioned was truly the final straw. The guy you saw may be fresh out of training so give him another try or find someone else. It took me a few years to mature and I’m still learning. If you don’t mind: All Acupuncture is not the same, all Acupuncturist are not the same, so one should ask many questions to figure out which is the best for your case. If you take the first step toward Acupuncture you should be prepare to give it at least 6 visits. An Acupuncturist may only know one type ie Chinese Traditional, Japanese, Korean, French Energetic or Myofascial + others. Then there are the “homunculus type” of ear, scalp or hand. My fav is Myofascial! The cost or insurance coverage situation is a turf battle between those who want to remain out of insurance control but that leaves many how will have to pay out of pocket. I prefer that it be covered benefit without a copay or steeply discounted copay. This is because it is preventative so why do you have to pay to stay healthy. (I would like that for all prevent medicine) Can you imagine recovering from knee, hip or shoulder pain and not needing a replacement surgery!!! Acupuncture does “hurt” but not like the needles used in blood donation. The sensation can feel like nothing, a soft touch, pressure, sting, stick, beesting to an “oh-sh*t, darn that hurts.” 80% of folks will not be bothered at all, 10 will find it very anxiety provoking, 5% need laughing gas, 2.5% will need a sedative and 2.5% will not come back. It is not a quick fix but may lead to a cure, meaning the problem is resolved. In the other cases it will have to be a part of the long-term treatment. The treatments benefits accumulative overtime until the problems is whittled down to nothing. These treatments can be customizable and modified to fit the every changing problems as it goes through healing cycles. (versatile) All the needles are sterile single use and are discarded. The likelihood of an infection at the puncture site is nill, I’ve been using needles (tens of thousands) for 15 yrs and have never seen it. (maybe I’m just luck – knock on wood) It is a clean procedure and not a sterile procedure. No sterile gloves are needed, I use just plain gloves on occasion. You will get a bruise sometimes but no harm. You might get soreness for a few hours afterwards but a simply heat, stretch and massage will rub it out. You can not get hepatitis or HIV from a sterile needle, so this is a… Read more »


Hi Crystal,
I too have often heard that ‘the needles don’t hurt, you don’t even feel them’.
I always thought, how can a needle not hurt, granted it’s not full on pain like us chronic intractable pain patients (cipp) have, but it’s a needle! I don’t care how ‘skinny’ it is, it’s gonna be felt. I abhor needles anyway so sticking 15 in me does not sound pleasant, especially since I have been known to faint.
Thank you for the confirmation that yes, they do hurt, & the bonus fact that you bleed afterwards.
Thank you for the facts.
Sorry it did not work for you, I know some claim it does, actually many claim it helps. Glad you didn’t get all the supplements. If you are interested in supplements there are some that supposedly help CCIP’s, I’ sure your doctor can recommend some. I should be taking some myself.
I hope you have some luck & a break through with an actual diagnosis one day real soon. Sorry the Mayo Clinic didn’t work either 🙁
Try to stay positive, I know it’s extremely difficult.
I’ll be sending good thoughts your way.


Those that do accupuncture aren’t drs. Unfortunately, a lot of people believe they are.