Monday, August 22, 2011

Acupuncture in Brazil

One of the items on my list of goals last week was to start acupuncture.  By start, I mean start completely from scratch and add Portuguese into the mix.  Hoorah!

I've never done acupuncture before but I've heard really REALLY good things about it.  Everyone that I know who has done it (and there are a surprisingly large amount of people who have), has said it fixed them right up.

Now, the traditional view on acupuncture is that is helps with pain.  It sure does.  But did you also know that it is also very effective in treating emotional difficulties as well?  People use acupuncture for stress, depression, weight loss (rather, controlling your food intake), sleep disorders and general well-being.

I went for all of the above. 

As I briefly mentioned before, I just came out of another rather lengthy bout of depression that left me feeling pretty directionless and, in spite of sounding melodramatic, hopeless.

But I've taken medication in the past for depression and I don't like what it does for me.  I am really determined to beat, or at least control, my depressive episodes chemical-free and as holistically as possible.  For one thing, I personally enjoy holistic activities, so it's almost a morbid excuse to pursue a hobby when I'm in a state of depression.  Kill two birds with one stone.  har har.

So, acupuncture.  Have you done it?  You should.

I found my acupuncturist by looking on the website of my health plan, Amil.  On the Amil website you can look up services by which plan you have.  Pretty simple.  They let you search by neighbourhood too so that's what I did.

The first appointment was a consultation where the doctor asked me a lot of health-history related questions.  It was a real interesting experience, trying to understand in Portuguese.  First, he asked me if I experience TPM.  Well, what the hell is that Doc?  It's that period that women go through... when they menstruate.... Ahhhh... PMS.  Later on, more vagina-related questions that were awkward as hell to act-out.  Even our hand puppets were feeling uncomfortable, as they shamefully tried to demonstrate what secreção vaginal anormal might mean.  (abnormal vaginal secretion).  Lovely.

But we got through it with only a few tears.  Literally, I cried at one point.  But only a little.  Ok, actually a lot.  It was stressful!

Today's appointment was the real thing.  The nurse took me into a tiny private room and told me to put on the gown, opened at the front.  That gown barely covered the back half of my body, even though I shouldn't be uncomfortable with full-frontal nudity in front of strangers anymore in Brazil.  I did try my best to at least cover my privates.

Then the doctor came in and I lay down on the paper bed while he did some tappy tappy thing on my rib cage and asked me to stick out my tongue.  (Do doctor's still ask to look at your tongue??)  He had shown me the needles in the consult and assured me that they are so small, they could fit inside a standard needle.  Basically they are even thinner than a pin.

He stuck the first needle right in my forehead, which I thought was an interesting place to start, because that didn't freak me out at all.  I wish I could literally write sarcasm into words.

Then he continued down my body.  Two in my sternum.  One in my belly.  Two on the side of each bicep.  Two on the side of each calf.  Two on the tops of each of my feet.

He explained that he would leave me for 10 minutes and then *someone* (because I didn't understand *who*) would come in and warm up the needles.  Huh?  That part I didn't understand but, as usual, when you don't understand something in Brazil, you just say yes until you learn what it is you have accepted.  Then you know whether you like 'that thing' or not.  Fun times.

So I waited.  I was fully aware of the needles on the entire left side of my body because that side was pulsing strongly.  I felt that the equilibrium in my body was totally off and was especially not liking the left side.  It pulsed like that for about 3 or 4 minutes before finally relaxing... and I mean really relaxing.  Everything felt very peaceful.
My heart beat was also very loud and strong and with every beat, it felt like a big ball of energy was passing itself back and forth over my chest, from needle point to needle point.  It was crazy and I was so aware of this feeling of flowing, moving energy!  It was like a ball of energy that actually had some weight to it, floating back and forth over my chest.  Very cool and interesting sensation. 

After the forewarned 10 minutes had passed, the nurse came in with this smoking thing (no idea what) and she proceeded to HEAT UP the needles.  Ahhh... so this is the elusive *someone*.  And hot damn, that's hot!  She really heated up the needle in my belly to the point that I almost said something, but she stopped before I could and left me for another 5 minutes.  Then she told me I was free!

After I left the consult, I was feeling pretty good, but I'm not sure how much of that was purely psychological.  I did read that when treating emotional conditions, acupuncture usually takes about 4 sessions to notice a different.  Either way, I'm really happy I went and plan to go back every week for more.

So, anyone else have super interesting stories of how acupuncture changed their lives?   For good or bad?

If you're interested in knowing more, this is a good article which talks about if acupuncture is for you or not. 


  1. Interesting experience!
    It must be a growing trend here too because Gil's doctor offered him to try Acupuncture sessions, which is also a new thing offered at his health insurance.


  2. Ray, I think that over the past 10 years acupuncture has really started to find acceptance in Western medicine. It's no longer just an 'Eastern, holistic' approach - sports injury therapists use it a lot too! Gil should try it, if he hasn't already! It's very interesting!

  3. I've been using it for about 18 years and it has totally educated me on how to achieve and maintain good health, and I wouldn't want to live without it, although I haven't found any acupuncturists out here in Rondonia. :-( In California, my acupuncturist was my primary health care provider. I'll never forget the first time I went to acupuncture- I was about 22 yo, and having chronic intestinal upset. I was vegan and better than you meat eaters. I recountedto my acupuncturist how, after a sweat lodge, I was dying to eat the buffalo but couldn't b/c I was vegan (and better then meat eaters.) The acupuncturist popped a needle into the very top of my head, my back arched spontaneously, tears sprouted through my eyes, and I exhaled like htere was no tomorrow. My acupuncturist leaned down and said "Jennifer, eat the buffalo." Within 2 days of eating an omnivore's diet, I never had the problem again. Thanks for taking me down memory lane!

  4. I used acupuncture for back pain many years ago. It provided total relief during the session, but not lasting relief. I got that from better exercise. But the acupuncture was fabulous.

  5. Lindsey,

    Thanks for sharing. I will have Gil ready your experience to see if he finds inpiration to go for it. ;)


  6. Part of me wants to try acupuncture, part of me is totally freaked out by it. Happy it's working for you... even if it's only psychological at first. Good job talking the embarrassing talk with the doctor in Portuguese. ;)
    AH! I hate those gowns that leave your a** out. What's the point? I could just lay there stark naked for all I care (not really haha).

  7. Learning something today. :: Thanks for the information.


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