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Every once in a while, one of my patients will receive what I call a Unicorn Treatment.
What is a Unicorn Treatment?
A Unicorn Treatment is a magical, mysterious acupuncture session that...
Maybe you've had a friend who's personally experienced a Unicorn Treatment. For example, a friend trying to get pregnant without any luck for 19 months has acupuncture once and conceives right away.
Results like this lead to a common misconception that the Unicorn Treatment is a regular occurrence in the world of acupuncture. Upon hearing these stories, many people try acupuncture once, expecting a miraculous cure, only to feel disappointed when the condition returns a few days later.
This is totally normal.
The reality is most conditions, especially chronic ailments, take multiple acupuncture treatments to resolve. Patients usually feel better after the first treatment, but if they don't receive another treatment within a few days, the pain or illness returns as if the acupuncture treatment never happened.
In my clinic, all treatment plans are customized to a patient's needs. In most cases, I advise the patient that their condition will take X number of treatments within X number of days before they feel consistently better.
So, if you've tried acupuncture once, and you felt disappointed because it didn't help you, I highly recommend trying it again (especially before resorting to an irreversible treatment like surgery). It's likely that consistent treatments will give you relief of your symptoms. And if you haven't tried acupuncture, maybe your first session will be a Unicorn Treatment, which will feel just as good as winning the lottery!
About 12 years ago, I suffered from debilitating chronic migraines. They would start with an aura, usually consisting of a blind spot that would prevent me from reading anything, including my watch. The aura would last about 25 minutes, then the vomiting would start, followed by intense pressure building in my skull. The worst sensation of each migraine was the stabbing pain behind my eye that could last for 12+ hours. All I could do was lie in a dark, cool room waiting for the pain to subside. There was no sleep, just unrelenting pain and silent prayers for relief.
The migraines consumed my life, 2-3 days of every week. I lost work days, I lost friends, my marriage decayed, and I fell out of touch. People got tired of hearing me say “Sorry, I have a headache.” It was both depressing and terrifying.
I tried over-the-counter meds like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. I tried drinking coffee and dark chocolate during the aura. I had a CAT scan and a MRI, which revealed nothing. Neurologists prescribed an assortment of pharmaceuticals, but they either didn’t work or had terrible side effects (topiramate = hair fell out/slurred speech/memory loss). Plus, they were only mildly effective, reducing the rate of my migraines to about 2 a month. My neurologist warned me that I would need to take a beta blocker (propranolol) for the rest of my life to prevent the migraines from coming back.
I was only 28. The rest of my life sounded like a very long time.
As a last ditch effort, I gave acupuncture a try. There was an acupuncturist across the street from my office and she performed nothing short of a miracle.
The frequency and severity of my migraines diminished over the course of a few weekly treatments. After a few months, I was able to stop the topiramate. After two years, I weaned off the beta blocker. It was a long journey to relief, but manageable with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
At this point, I can look back and see how migraines caused me to stop and rebuild my life. The migraines called me to become a holistic doctor and help others find relief. They turned out to be an amazing blessing in an awful package.
What are your migraines telling you?
Congratulations! You’ve just had an amazing acupuncture treatment that has left you feeling completely relaxed and high on life.
You’re probably thinking, “Wow! I wish I always felt like this! How can I get this feeling to last?”
The truth is, despite how good it feels, only about 20% of acupuncture’s healing power happens while the needles are in. About 80% of the healing effect occurs in the 24 hours following the treatment.
To sustain the healing effect, you must avoid three things 24 hours after the needles come out:
Cold is the #1 arch enemy in Chinese Medicine:
All of these cold things can all counteract the benefits of acupuncture by contracting the flow of qi and slowing down the healing process.
2. Alcohol and recreational drugs
After an acupuncture treatment, your body works hard to transfer the energetics of the needles into acute healing and homeostasis (balance). Alcohol is warming to the body, yet can significantly alter the 24 hour cycle of qi. Alcohol and recreational drugs disrupt the healing process (and in the case of getting drunk, can completely cancel out any treatment benefits).
Consuming alcohol or getting high after a treatment is effectively wasting your time and money.
Sex is considered an activity that promotes the free flow of qi. However, after an acupuncture treatment, sex can demand too much qi and inhibit healing. It is best to wait until the day after acupuncture to get your qi moving between the sheets.
So, now that you know what to avoid, what should you do during the 24 hours after an acupuncture treatment?
The best thing you can do is rest your body and relax your mind:
Allow the natural high to sink in for 24 hours while your body-mind-spirit take the time needed for healing.
Dr. Michelle Wendt, L.Ac., DACM
Dr. Michelle Wendt, L.Ac., DACM practices Oriental & Chinese Medicine in Hawaii and Texas.