I’d like to preface this post by saying that I am 39 years old as of the date of this post and I have chronic pain in my neck (PTSD/stress related), as well as my knee (car accident many years ago). I have only had 2 sessions thus far, and we didn’t actually do any work on the knee yet, so this post is mostly referring to my neck pain.
When I went in to Hoots Acupuncture, I was having a bad flare up with my neck, and when I say bad, I mean this shit is debilitating. I can’t sleep (without drugs to help knock me out), I can’t do basic tasks without pain, and it’s just an absolute bitch. No other way to describe it without cursing.
This has been happening to me off and on for years, since my late 20’s/early 30’s. When it pulls, it feel like I’m being stabbed in the back of my neck, right on the side of my spine. The pain shoots through my shoulder blade, up into my neck, and the base of my skull. Wonderful for someone who gets migraines too (yes, that is sarcasm).
When this happens, I usually have what can only be described as a minor mental breakdown. Which is annoying, considering part of the reason that this happens is stress. I get really tense and upset, and I usually end up crying in bed for about an hour. Part due to the actual physical pain, part due to the fact that I can’t believe this is my life sometimes. I know things can always be worse, but I don’t know anyone who is my age (aka not THAT old) and deals with this. I know I’m not alone but in my immediate circle, no one can relate, so it’s just very upsetting to grapple with.
Supposedly this pain is trauma/PTSD related, like ever since the car accident and any other “surprise” traumas (like my breakup), my body is always in a state of “survival” and “hypervigilance.” I didn’t know about this until I read the book “The Body Keeps the Score,” but it makes perfect sense.
One of my friends always makes fun of my “spidey senses” with my surroundings. If something is about to fall off a table, I will be the first to see it or catch it. If I see a piece of paper too close to a burner on the stove, I will move it. I’d like to think anyone would do the latter, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t notice things that I notice. And I learned that these little quirks or skills are all part of growing up with trauma.
But I digress. When this happened most recently, I was talking to a friend who said he had neck pain once really badly, went to an acupuncturist and magically felt better. Needless to say, I was intrigued. I’ve been hearing about this for years for my headaches and my knee, so I figured now feels like a good time to give it a shot.
I found Hoots Acupuncture through a friend/fellow Instagram account (shoutout @yeswilliamsburg) who recommended him. He’s very close to my apartment in Williamsburg (office at the William Vale hotel), and agreed to a free session in exchange for an honest review/post about my experience. I happen to be in a financial hole at the moment, so I took him up on the offer. I want to be clear in that free or not, this is my honest opinion. I don’t lie to people. If I didn’t feel it was worth it, I would have told him so and paid for my visit.
Anyway, the first visit was tough because I was fresh into the neck pain. Joe was really nice and made me feel less nervous (I hate needles), and he was great at explaining why these things happen and what he was doing during the session. I ask a lot of questions, so I was appreciative of that.
He said my case was really severe, so it would likely take more than one session to correct. He did a combo of electroacupuncture (which is the needles + electric stimulation) and deep tissue massage/stretches. Here’s a solid article about electroacupuncture and a brief description that I pulled from it below:
Electroacupuncture is intended to help increase the potential healing effects of standard acupuncture. It works with the gate theory of pain, in which connections in the spinal cord function as “gates” that block pain signals to the brain.
- Your acupuncturist will evaluate your symptoms and select points for treatment.
- They’ll insert a needle at the treatment point and another needle nearby.
- Once the needles are inserted to the correct depth, your acupuncturist will use electrodes to connect the needles to a special electroacupuncture machine.
- After the electrodes are attached, they’ll turn on the machine. Electroacupuncture machines have adjustable current and voltage settings. Low voltages and frequencies will be used at first, though your acupuncturist may adjust the frequency and voltage of the current during treatment.
- The electric current pulsates, alternating between the two needles.
First things first: the needles don’t hurt that bad, but the sensations you feel when they’re in/hitting your muscles is what took more getting used to. There are people all over the internet like “you won’t feel a thing – the needles are thin!” and I don’t think that’s totally true. It wasn’t painful but it wasn’t nothing, if that makes sense?
It’s hard to describe how “stim” feels, but some people hate it. I happen to love it! If you’ve ever been to a chiropractor, they sometimes use the stim machine too but they use little sticky pads as opposed to needles. It makes your muscles “jump” almost as if you were flexing and contracting them during a workout? It’s a weird sensation, and I’ll admit that afterwards, I was VERY sore, almost like someone punched me repeatedly in the affected areas (my traps/shoulder blades), and I was a little lightheaded. That said, definitely wasn’t feeling stressed out! I felt beyond relaxed.
Unfortunately though, I was still having pain. It wasn’t nearly as bad, and it definitely helped my range of motion with turning my head left and right, but it was still hurting. So I paid for my second visit and went back a week later. After that session was when I finally felt the most relief; I was still sore afterwards, but that’s normal, and ultimately it started to dissipate and get me back to normal within a few more days.
When you’re dealing with the level of pain and muscle tightness that I have, it’s not going to be an easy “one and done” magic fix like some people experience. You folks are the lucky ones. In my case, I know it will happen again, as this is unfortunately something I just have to live with and manage when it flares up.
I should also mention that we did a little work on my left quad/hip flexor which had been giving me pain for literal months, and that seemed to feel almost immediately better after just the one session! It goes to show you that it really does depend on the severity of your issues; you just have to manage your expectations going into it.
I plan on going back soon and definitely recommend checking out Hoots Acupuncture! Especially if you’re afraid of the chiropractor (I was too for a while but I don’t mind the cracking), this is a great alternative.