Acupuncture for IBS

IBS symptoms seem to respond best to alternative and complementary medical treatment. It seems more and more doctors of conventional medicine are referring patients to acupuncture as a complimentary therapy. Are you picturing yourself lying on a table with a bunch

of tiny needles sticking out of you? Well, you pictured right, because that is exactly what acupuncture is. However, there is more to it than just needles.

Check out this YouTube video that shows What Happens During a Session of acupuncture.

The practice of acupuncture, which has been around for over 2,500 years, helps to normalize the flow of the body's energy, called Qi. It can also promote health and well being. In the case of IBS and other disorders, there is believed to be a blockage in this energy flow, causing an imbalance. The small fine needles, placed in specific areas depending on the disorder, may help to restore this energy flow, resulting in better healing. When they are inserted, the needles also stimulate the nerves and help to trigger the body's self healing mechanism.

What appears to be the biggest benefit of acupuncture, is that it can help treat so many other disorders that sometimes accompany IBS. Headache, insomnia, stress, tension, anxiety, nausea and indigestion can all be reduced along with the horrible symptoms of IBS.

There has been much research done on the effectiveness of acupuncture, although the findings of some of these studies remain inconclusive. Click here for an interesting article from Vanderbilt University which summarizes some of these studies.

Where to Start?

When deciding to try acupuncture, make sure you seek out a qualified acupuncturist. The acupuncturist should be licensed and certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine or the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. There are many hospitals now which have a complimentary medicine department, with a Medical Doctor on staff that is trained in acupuncture and oversees the treatments. I found this to be the best option when I decided to try acupuncture, since I was assured I was being treated by a qualified staff and I knew they were practicing proper treatments.

While acupuncture is not yet covered by most insurance plans, it is eligible for reimbursement by Flexible Spending Health Care Accounts.

Like so many IBS sufferers, I was absolutely desperate to get relief. Conventional medicine did not seem to be helping much, so I thought I would try some alternative medicine. The acupuncture clinic I visited was connected to the local hospital, and treated a lot of cancer patients. I figured if acupuncture could help relieve some of the devastating symptoms of cancer and horrible side effects of chemotherapy, then it was a worth a try to help my IBS symptoms.

My Own Experience With Acupuncture

Before I arrived at my first acupuncture session, I had a slight headache, and lower abdominal pain. I'm sure this was because I was nervous, but kind of excited, too, about getting stuck with needles. I hadn't realized how nervous I was, but I woke up at 4:00 am the night before and couldn't get back to sleep, so I guess it was in the back of my mind.

After filling out some paperwork at the reception area, my acupuncturist came out to greet me and brought me back to the treatment room, which by the way, looked more like a room in a spa, with it's soft lighting and cozy feel. The acupuncturist asked me a series of questions, but not just about my ibs. As is the practice with Eastern medicine, she wanted to know more about what was going on with the whole me, physically and emotionally, including the grief I had been dealing with from losing my mother to cancer last year. It was refreshing to have a practitioner sit for awhile and just listen!

Before she left the room for a bit, I was instructed to undress to my underclothes and lie on the table, covered with a sheet, face up.

When she returned, she explained some of the basics of acupuncture, such as how she would be placing the needles at certain points throughout the body. She also stated how everyone reacts different to acupuncture, and some of the points may feel sore, some may feel itchy, but if there was any discomfort, to let her know.

The first needle that was inserted was like a quick pin prick. After the initial prick, I didn't feel anything else at that site. When she moved on to other sites, the slight sensation upon insertion was less and less, until finally, I wasn't even paying attention to it anymore and was having a relaxing conversation with the practitioner.

There was probably a total of 20 needles inserted in me. Even though I was still slightly nervous, I was definitely starting to feel more comfortable with the whole process. There was one acupuncture point in particular that wasn't necessarily causing pain, but I was aware of it's presence. Even though it was between my toes, she told me that was the point to the stomach channel. Another somewhat painful area, kind of like the pain you feel with a sore muscle, was between my thumb and forefinger, which she explained is a stress point. Hmmmmm.....stomach and stress? Sounds like IBS to me.

The practitioner then turned on some soothing music, dimmed the lights and told me to relax and breathe deep. She would return in about 20 minutes. After lying there for about 5 minutes I began to feel deeply relaxed and calm. As I lay there, I thoroughly enjoyed the time of relaxation. It was quite meditative and my pain was slowly melting away.

When the practitioner returned, she slowly removed the needles, and I did not feel any pain when she did so. She asked how I felt and if I had any questions and concerns. She then said I could take more time to relax, get dressed, and check out when I was ready.

The cost of each session was $112, which I submitted and was reimbursed through my Flexible Spending Healthcare Account.

Overall, I feel the best part of this acupuncture session and the subsequent three more that I attended, was the extreme relaxation I felt during all of them. I unfortunately cannot say I received any long term relief from my IBS symptoms, but I know getting into the deeply calming state at each session certainly did not hurt my IBS in any way, and, overall, benefited my whole body and mind.

If you have the time and resources, I highly recommend giving acupuncture a try. If you feel acupuncture is not something that is readily available to you for whatever reason, you can try some of the less costly and (much easier to come by!) Natural Ways to treat IBS!

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