Friday, April 23, 2010


For quite some time, I've heard that acupuncture can help reduce chronic pain that results from a myriad of maladies.  From what I've read, it looks like the most common uses for acupuncture are to reduce chronic pain that results from conditions like headaches, fatigue, anxitey, lower back pain, arthritis, chemotherapy side effects, and digestive problems (like the Crohn's disease I have).   I've always said to myself "someday I'll try that".  Well, that someday has been over the last month, as I have seen an acupuncturist 4 times (once a week).

On 3/23/2010, the Wall Street Journal's Personal Journal section had a great article about Acupuncture called Decoding an Ancient Therapy.  For a long time, I've been thinking about trying acupuncture.  I've heard that it can help reduce inflammation (which would be great for my Crohn's Disease since I frequently get inflammation).  Also, as I near my next marathon on May 1st, my legs and knees have been very fatigued from training.  I'll try anything that can reduce my fatigue.

First thing I did was call my insurance company to see acupuncture is covered under my insurance.  I found out that it is covered in network at 90% of the allowed claim (or 70% out of network), both after my $250 deductible it met, with annual maximum coverage to be paid by my insurer of $500.  Translation - I pay the first $250, then they pay up to $500.  At a cost of $110 per visit, this will allow me 5 visits a year to be covered by insurance.

Next, I emailed my physical therapist Allison Lind, an elite triathlete and marathon runner (she ran a 2:55) and asked her who she would recommend as my acupuncturist (click here for an article about Allison in this month's Runners World magazine).   It was very important to me to see an acupuncturist with experience working on marathon runners/athletes.  My physical therapist recommended Anastasia Hall, a New York State licensed Acupuncturist.  My physical therapist said that her triathalon team uses Ansastasia, so that was good enough for me.

Over the last month, I've been experiencing two minor injuries.  The first is what we believe to be a strained medial gastrocnemius behind my left knee at the top of my calf.  This injury has been nagging at me for the last 7 weeks or so.  It doesn't hurt when I run, but it bothers me later in the day, usually after I have been sitting at my desk for a while and then get up, when it feels stiff and painful.  After my marathon on May 1st, I will get this looked at by a doctor.  Luckily, it has been getting better.  I believe that the acupuncture has really helped this strain.  The strain is much less painful today than it was a month ago and has made my marathon training less painful.  Anastasia puts one of the needles directly into this area, which is painful intially when the needle goes in to find its place, but then the pain lessens.  Also, I have been getting electrical stimulation to the area, which has been helping.  I like that the needle is under the skin.  It makes me feel like the electrical stimulation is getting right to the source. After the acupuncture session, my calves feel a little tight (which Anastatia told me to expect), but by the next day, they feel great and the pain in siginficantly less during my run.   My friend JS had an injury to this area also (and recently did the Platelet Rich Plasma treatment "PRP" to help her recover, which uses a patient's own blood by reinjecting it into the injured site to speed up recovery) and recommended that I start to do strength training to my legs to strengthen the muscles around this area).  I plan on starting some strength training after my May 1st marathon.  All of my friends that do strength training benefit greatly from it, both from being more healthy but also from getting faster.  Hopefully I will get both benefits too.

My second (and worse) injury is to my right knee.  Not sure what the problem is.  My best guess is that it is sore tendons from overuse caused by marathon training.  It may also be a frayed or slightly torn meniscus (although I doubt it becasue the knee isn't swollen at all).  It may be a tight IT band too, but I doubt it, as I roll out my IT bands every day.  I'll get this looked at after my race.  I've been able to tough my way through the pain 5 days a week during my training, but if this injury would have happened earlier in my training I would have taken more time off.  The acupuncture has been helping my knee, usually for 2-3 days after my treatment, which has helped my marathon training.  The picture I attached shows me getting electrical stimulation to the knee.  In this picture, I have a needle directly inside the area where my pain is when I run.  The electrical stimulation was set to pulse every few seconds, which sent reverberations down my leg and would make my foot twitch each time.  The electrical stimulation felt a little uncomfortable each pulse, nearly exactly like the pain I feel there when I run.  When I was done with the treatement, I had absoultely zero pain in my knee whatsover.  It definitely has helped me.

In addition to acupuncture, Anastatia has introduced me to U-I Oil (pronounced "ooh-eee" oil).  She describes it as "Tiger Balm on steriods".   I love it.  It warms up the injured areas, bringing additional blood and circulation to the area, and noticeably helps my injuries feel a little better.  I will be heavily applying U-I Oil to my legs and IT bands for the marathon.  After using U-I Oil for a week, I tried Tiger Balm to compare the two, and I barely even felt the Tiger Balm.  I highly recommend U-I Oil!

In summary, I think that acupuncture is helping my legs and knees.  It even helps reduce the twitching in my right eye by putting a needle around my toes!  I highly recommend Anastatia.

Note:  The picture in this post shows about 20 needles in my right leg, knee, foot, and IT band while getting electrical stimulation (the needles are a little hard to see, but there are a lot of needles running down my leg from the knee to the foot).

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