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Ode to acupuncture: a quarter-century, multi-generational testimonial

Joy Cutrone, Wellness & Certified AIP Coach, FMCHC-Candidate
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Our journey with the ancient practice of acupuncture

I grew up with horrific allergies. My parents focused on the allergies expressed through my sinuses, while largely disregarding my digestive issues — more from a lack of understanding and a sense of powerlessness, I believe, than a lack of care – and so I had a fistful of drugs prescribed to manage those symptoms to get through my every day. As a young adult, I sought alternate approaches to manage my health, which primarily focused on removing sources, and doing some early investigation into possible dietary drivers. By the time I wanted to have children, however, I knew that I needed to speed up this investigation and quickly find a more effective approach. No more fistful of meds when under attack. Enter acupuncture. No one I knew was doing it, but it was time.

On-going health management

In fairly short order – a couple of months? – I was medication-free. I have continued to be. Both of my children are now young adults, so that was a long time ago. In fact, it was about a quarter century ago now, and acupuncture has remained a part of my health care ever since.

Since that first and important intervention, over time I learned that acupuncture not only calmed my allergies, but also helped manage my overall wellbeing. I got sick less often. When I did get ill, I improved faster. As life got busy and treatment was often interrupted, I could always reconnect for a tune-up when I felt run down or needed help, and my symptoms would significantly improve. I even introduced my kids to my acupuncturist, who by now was a trusted advisor as well as an important practitioner in my health care team. It turns out that she has even thinner needles for kids, and that a quarter each was sufficient incentive to let her insert a needle when they needed a boost.

Acute care

Then I had a serious accident in which my leg was crushed and nearly amputated. After the surgeon “reamed” in a surgical rod and screwed it to my ankle and knee, my leg didn’t look quite human. It worked little, and hurt more. Acupuncture played a key role in restoring circulation, reducing inflammation, and managing the pain.

Then my son got ill with a severe autoimmune disease. We were now firmly in the Land of Mystery and The Unexplained. “There are no known causes; there’s nothing you can do about it; pick a drug.” If you’re familiar with my story, we thrashed around a bit as I sought answers better than that from the conventional system, and then from functional medicine, where we now had some cleanup work to do as well as investigation into the original root causes and resulting treatment protocols. As I’d done so many years before, I sought answers that didn’t rely heavily on pharmaceuticals — especially since some of those drugs were wreaking greater havoc in my son’s system than the illness they were treating.

Re-enter acupuncture. This time we were going to need a greater incentive than a quarter to get our son to brave the needles. He does not like needles. And he was so beat up and worn down that the last thing he welcomed was another round of tortuous treatment and false promises: we had exhausted 9 protocols on our way to his first remission, and the kid was seriously weary. I carefully navigated tenuous ground, chose my battles and, yes, even bribed him a bit more to add acupuncture to his newly-emerging protocol. Thankfully, our acupuncturist did not disappoint. She helped.

Navigating the cruelest irony

Next, this same young man who had gotten ill in his early teens – the inspiration for the Autoimmune Families Community – regained his health, hard-won, through a healing-based approach that included acupuncture, healthy diet, key supplemental support, sustained determination, and stunning resiliency. He regained his strength, muscle mass, and stamina. He made co-captain of his baseball team, for whom he was now the starting pitcher. Then he got struck by a line-drive return of his fastball – a blow at over 100 mph directly into his skull. He suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that nearly killed him twice, since the first surgeon made the wrong call and sent him home, despite an increasing hematoma. After a grand mal seizure and post-seizure trauma that nearly killed him a second time, a different surgeon removed the hematoma, and the healing process of the remaining skull fracture and serious contusion could now begin. He was given a long-term prognosis of probable full recovery, along with a prescription to give it “time.” Yet we knew we needed more than just time on our side. Our acupuncturist was able to come into the hospital and start his treatment right away. That early intervention, coupled with what we’d already learned from our functional medicine education and could apply from that protocol, enabled us to engage support right away to help him recover and start to rebuild his life. Again.

Unlike most people with autoimmune disease who suffer a TBI, he did not go into a flare.

Three months later, this same young man headed off to college. I’m not going to claim that was easy, nor that he felt fully like himself, nor that he was able to move forward solely on the basis of his acupuncture treatments. But we do know that acupuncture played a role in his healing process, and helped enable him to go forward with his life. The neurologists were impressed with the speed of his improvement. And they should be. He continues forward even now. His journey of recovery from the TBI isn’t over, nor is it with his autoimmune disease. But he’s living his life, learning to manage his health independently, and experiencing joy. Wow. All hands to the pump when that’s possible, and acupuncture is absolutely one of those hands in our very real experience.

Acupuncture is not a be-all, end-all solution. Yet it can be an important and effective agent in a multi-faceted protocol to treat a multi-factorial disease. And when it comes to serious, chronic illness, more than one treatment protocol is appropriate.

Part of a multi-faceted approach

Acupuncture is not a be-all, end-all solution. In our experience, especially when it comes to serious, chronic illness, more than one treatment protocol is appropriate. Acupuncture is not a replacement for healthy eating, for example, nor for responsible lifestyle choices. In fact, our acupuncturist encourages healthy choices in both of those areas. Acupuncture can, however, be an important and effective agent in a multi-faceted protocol to treat a multi-factorial disease. It can make everything work better. When you remove key triggers and drivers of illness and give it a chance, it can help the body heal itself. It can reduce inflammation, improve circulation, advance healing, manage pain, and lessen the impact of stress. We’ve seen it all.

Part of a team approach

Today, our family acupuncturist is a key member in both my son’s and my health care team. She is a trusted provider. We each also have a functional nurse practitioner, a conventional PCP, a specialist, and one or two other complementary practitioners, such as a chiropractic neurologist, in my son’s case, of which I am now a fan. Chiropractic neurology is also playing a key role in our son’s recovery: it’s another functional medicine discipline which contributes significantly to the positive outcomes of a healing-based approach.


People use acupuncture for chronic pain. To quit smoking. To manage stress. To balance the immune system. People also resist it, even knowing it could help them, claiming they’re “afraid of needles.” Our son isn’t afraid, exactly, but he doesn’t like them. He just doesn’t like being sick / injured / exhausted / depressed even more. I get it. Supplements aren’t always delicious and fun to take, either, and yet sometimes you just do what you gotta do. And you do get a bit of a nap during treatment, too: that’s how relaxing it can be. So, OK, acupuncture needles aren’t always fun to receive – sometimes they do bite for a millisecond going in. But it’s nothing like, say, having blood drawn, or living with the affliction you’re there to resolve. And once the needles are in, you might be surprised to find yourself drifting off in a relaxed state, like we do: getting a break from the craziness of the world for a few minutes while the needles “do their work.”

Do you have to believe?

Luckily, acupuncture is not a mind game. You don’t have to “believe” in it for it to work. You do have to find a good practitioner, however. And then, when you do, as our acupuncturist says, “You don’t have to believe. Just let the needles do their work.” And they do. Find a certified acupuncturist near you.

See Also

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