Yesterday afternoon, I visited my friend UnSoo’s home studio to receive acupuncure treatments for my inflamed posterior tibialis tendon and hurty ankle.
UnSoo is a licensed physical therapist and former yoga instructor who has been practicing acupuncture for at least 15 years that I know about. As for me, I have not been practicing acupuncture nor receiving it for 15 years — this was my first time getting poked.
She started by having me lay down on a massage table, and she asked me about the pain as she manuevered my feet and rubbed my calf. I explained the occurrences and conditions of the flare-ups, and we isolated the specific places where I felt pain. And then she took out a brand new package of needles.
“There are nerves that run very close to the area we are going to work,” she warned. “I’ll be careful, but I may hit one. You’ll know because it feels like getting an electric shock. Now relax.”
When we began, the pain on my ankle and surrounding tissue was acutely tender to touch, but I didn’t feel the first needles go in at all. The slid in like they were going into butter. I lay first on my back and then on my side, so I couldn’t see the needling actually happening, for which I am grateful, and for which UnSoo should also be grateful. For her part, she explained everything she was doing, step-by-step. Almost to a fault. I didn’t necessarily need to know when we would be going very deep, or when we would be needling a bone.
Occasionally, the needles let themselves be known. Sometimes this felt similar to getting a shot. A few times, there would be a sharp rush of pain, akin to poking a cavity.
“You’re a very good patient,” Unsoo said, as I squirmed and squealed. She may have been saying it as a command.
All the while, she kept rubbing the afflicted areas. “How does this feel? Where does it hurt?” And she would have me turn my ankle against the resistance of her hand to assess the relative pain or ease with which I could perform this function. She would assess the new information, and then resume poking away.
Sometimes the needle would give me a small jolt — very low on the Richter scale. She called these “twitches” and seemed to think they were good things.
And then, one time: “AIE!!!” The electric shock analogy was right on. UnSoo remained unflappable. “I hit a nerve,” she said.
At this point, most of the needling was concentrated around my ankle area. Then she had me jump off the table, walk around, stand on my tiptoes and then on my heels. The strange thing is, it felt pretty good. Like, the area felt looser and easy and free. There was still some pain that seemed very concentrated in my ankle area, but overall things felt better. Much better, actually. We did this a few times. Hop on the table, a few more needles. Hop off, give it a test run. Each time showed clear and demonstrable improvement.
“How does this feel?” ahe asked at one point, as she was rubbing my foot.
“Fine,” I said. “Just like pressure.”
“It feels fine?” she asked.
“I’m rubbing your whole ankle.”
Oh, you mean the ankle that, 45 minutes ago, was extremely tender to the touch? Yeah. Cool.
Towards the end, she threw in a few extra stabs for good measure — this time deep, deep, deep into my calf.
Then I was good to go.
“Should I come back for ongoing treatments?” I asked her.
“See how you feel,” she replied. “I’m actually impressed with how well you are responding.”
You hear that, everyone? My responding skills are excellent.
So today, there is some soreness in the area, to be sure. She warned there may be bruising, but there is very little actually. In general, my whole ankle and surrounding area still feels looser, easier, and happier.
Tomorrow, I am going to test it out in the Chi-Town half marathon. For the run, I am less concerned, at this point, about my ankle than I am by the fact that for the past two weeks, I’ve barely run and done no cross training. Hopefully, the training I did before that still exists within me somewhere. In any case, I am totally prepared to run/walk it if necessary, or to drop out entirely if my tendon forces me to.