Liv­ing Pain Free

How acupunc­ture de­feated my back pain and gave me back my life

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY PAULA MICHELE BOL ADO

There was a time in my life when I could sit at my easel and paint for hours on end. I would hunch over the can­vas, care­fully paint­ing into the tight­est cor­ners, so that when I stepped away, the paint­ing would cre­ate a Monet feel, as the ob­jects came to­gether to cre­ate a co­he­sive scene. Paint­ing kept me present, where it seemed noth­ing could in­ter­fere with my process—un­til years later, when pain in my lower back be­came too much too bear. I had to give up paint­ing and work only on my grad­u­ate stud­ies.

Then pain and life cir­cum­stances yielded a de­pres­sion that was par­tially re­lieved by run­ning 5 to 6 miles a day. I had never been so lean, so strong― and so un­happy all at once.

One day dur­ing a run my back be­gan to ache, then sting and then knife, and I found my­self halfway around a lake with my left leg limp and my fa­ther res­cu­ing me with his pick-up.

I saw a chi­ro­prac­tor whose treat­ment seemed to in­ten­sify the pain, so I tried phys­i­cal ther­apy, but that didn’t help me walk with­out a limp. The pain was so ex­cru­ci­at­ing, I was con­stantly ap­ply­ing icepacks. These packs pressed on the nerves and left huge welts, which were ice burns.

At age 30, I could find no one in Way­nesville, North Carolina, who wanted to op­er­ate on me. Even­tu­ally, I found an or­tho­pe­dist in Asheville who per­formed a laminec­tomy to re­lieve pres­sure on the spinal cord and nerves. Un­for­tu­nately, I con­tin­ued to have pain, and af­ter a year, went back for a re­vi­sion laminec­tomy. But then the scar tis­sue grew and the nerves were pinch­ing all over again.

This is when I met Nate Nov­grod, acupunc­tur­ist with Way­nesville Well­ness in North Carolina. He asked me my longterm goals re­gard­ing treat­ment; I told him that I wanted to run again. He chuck­led slightly and said that he couldn’t prom­ise that, so I said I wanted to sit again at my easel and paint. He thought this was a good goal, and I be­gan treat­ment two times a week for three months, notic­ing ma­jor im­prove­ment. Af­ter a year of acupunc­ture ev­ery other week, I be­gan to jog again. Af­ter an­other year of acupunc­ture just once a month, I could again sit long hours in front of my easel.

The vi­sion of nee­dles stick­ing out of some­one’s back may side­line one’s plans to seek treat­ment, but the re­al­ity is they are not swords or dag­gers, but rather, tiny round-tip nee­dles as fine as a hair. How does some­thing so small fire up nerves and cre­ate new paths for heal­ing? Ac­cord­ing to Nov­grod, “Acupunc­ture has many lit­tle mech­a­nisms of ac­tion that all work to­gether for a global ef­fect: It in­creases the cir­cu­la­tion to the lo­cal tis­sue; it re­leases anti-in­flam­ma­tory chem­i­cal sig­nals in a lo­cal area; it can ac­tu­ally change the way the


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