Taking care of your health can be a full-time job, and when you run out of ideas for what to do to help yourself, you may remember that necessity is the mother of invention.
I like to say that I have three full-time jobs, as so many of us do. First and foremost is my family. Making sure that everyone has what they need, that things run smoothly, appointments are made, sick teens are picked up from school, everyone is fed – that is by far my most important job.
This website and the work that I do to write, research, and be an influencer in a world where things are changing rapidly and without warning is my second job. I love what I do and I love the conversations that I have with you all.
My third job is my body. It is also a full-time job. My body and I became friends many years ago and although neither of us is perfect, we look out for each other. It’s a very good partnership that I hope to keep for a very long time, but it takes a ton of time and energy to maintain a balance.
My last update on my third full-time job was about 6 months ago, so I thought I’d fill you in on what’s happened since.
A Real Pain In The Neck
A major issue that I manage with my body is several pain conditions. Most affect my muscles, tissues, and joints in the bottom half of my body, and I take a cocktail of medication and vitamins that keep things at a pretty good baseline.
In the last seven or eight years, I began to have a lot of pain on the right side from my neck to my shoulder and my back in that area. I did physical therapy, stretching, and professional massage, saw an osteopath regularly (who does manipulation to shift bones and release organs to where they should be), used a Theracane for home massage (it’s AMAZING and I still use it daily), tried different pillows, and tried to maintain decent posture.
All of this helped some, but I finally realized that things were continually getting worse. What I was doing to help just made them get worse more slowly.
Sticking It To The Man
In 2020, this pain started affecting my sleep significantly. Then, with the added stress from the pandemic over the next year, I would have to wake up in the middle of the night multiple times to stretch, massage my shoulder, and reposition just to get back to sleep for a little while.
I had heard of acupuncture, of course, but I have been a needle phobic for as long as I can remember. It is the joke of my universe that I’ve had to deal with so many needles in this body, but I wasn’t about to sign up for lots of them voluntarily.
As it turns out, my brother’s friend is a practitioner with a doctorate in Eastern medicine and I had become desperate. I know her and I trust her, so I figured, if I was ever going to let anyone approach me with needles in this way, it had to be her.
I made my first appointment in March 2023 and sweated through my clothing on the way to the office. I’m never concerned about the pain, it is entirely about the needles themselves, so just knowing that there would be a bunch waiting for me totally freaked me out.
She was amazing. It was completely different from what I expected in that she didn’t even touch my back for the first half hour. The goal from the beginning was to help align my body and open channels so that everything could talk to each other and begin to detoxify.
I am very used to Western medicine, so I wasn’t exactly sure what we were doing, but I trusted her, and I remain open to anything that I can fully research that might help.
After the acupuncture, she did cupping on my back. The only reference that I had for cupping was seeing the circles on Gwyneth Paltrow’s back one year. This is what mine looked like.
Cupping can be done in various ways, but in her practice, she strategically placed special cups on my back while I sat in front of her. The cups are placed and tightened with a suction tool that allows them to stay there for somewhere between 5-8 minutes. To me, it feels tight, but it is not painful – and neither are the marks left over. They take about a week to fully fade.
To date, my back is significantly better than it was. In March 2023, that section of my back was as hard as a table with skin over it. I would have to dig the Theracane into my tissue so hard that it left bruises just so that I could get any kind of pain relief. It’s not like that now (September 2023).
Between the acupuncture, cupping, and specific needling of the muscles in my back during one appointment per week, the tissue is far more movable and I can now turn my head all the way to the right. It had been years since I could do that.
This is a long process, so you cannot expect it to fix anything overnight, but 6 months in, I can only tell you that the pain in my neck is in a significantly healthier place and that I’m very impressed with the acupuncture and cupping experience.
Not Over The Phobia, But Managing
For the record, I’m still terrified every time I go for a session, but I’ve been able to put about 70% of my panic into a little box in my head. That gets me through driving to the appointment and onto the table.
Once everything is placed and I’m left to rest for 20 minutes with the needles inserted (I don’t even like writing the word here, honestly), I open the box and let the panic out. Knowing it’s already finished helps the feelings dissipate pretty quickly.
You have to do what you have to do and knowing that this is helping, I’m more interested in living a happy, productive life than avoiding my fears. One day at a time!
Keeping It In My Hip Pocket
Chronic hip bursitis is an issue that I’ve dealt with for over 20 years. It used to be primarily in my right hip, but for the last 10 years, it has been worse in my left. I have done physical therapy multiple times, had many shots, and have learned to live with a degree of pain from it such that I only have it addressed when it gets past a certain pain point. It is what it is.
After many weeks of building trust, I allowed my acupuncture practitioner to begin specifically treating my hips a little bit. From what I understand, she is attempting to work with the muscles around my hips to help loosen each area.
As my rheumatologist will proudly tell you, he is one of the only people allowed to mess with my hips because he is a 15-year specialist in them. I am fiercely protective of my hips and if you can’t write me an entire novel about how you’re going to help – including graphs, proposals, and the title to your car – you are not allowed to push and prod. It is not worth the pain that will be caused while recovering from someone just wanting to check.
What I can say for sure is that my hips are not worse. They might even be a little bit better. I have not had a shot in approximately 4 months (I typically receive them every 3 months) and the usual pain came back about two weeks late. I’m taking that as a good sign and we’ll see!
The Estrogen Headache
I am one of many people who takes birth control pills daily for pain relief. Other than planned breaks where I was lucky enough to get pregnant with my two children, this has been a key to keeping my body in check for over 22 years.
About 4 years ago, I began to have breakthrough bleeding, which is not supposed to happen. I take a pill every day to keep the cycle away. Having a cycle increases inflammation, and in my body, seriously disturbs my hips, legs, and digestive tract. It’s not the most fun, so this stability has been invaluable.
We changed my pill twice before I noticed that I had developed Melasma (later diagnosed by a doctor) on my forehead (above). Melasma is a skin condition where you get darker spots on your face. I already have Vitiligo, so adding some darker spots to the mix wasn’t something I cared too much about, but I did want to know why they were there.
The belief was that I had too much estrogen in my body, possibly due to the birth control pills. After changing my pills two more times and having 16 vials of blood taken at a functional medicine clinic (I asked if I was going to be able to walk out of there by myself!), the theory was confirmed.
The Melasma has stayed, but my blood tests are showing better results and everything else in this area has been stable since mid-June 2023. They credit it to acupuncture (who’d have thought!), a dosage increase and the addition of some vitamins, and my body figuring something out. Whatever the reason, I’ll take it.
And For My Last Trick…
Speaking of Vitiligo, I started using Opzelura cream (the first FDA approved treatment cream for Vitiligo) on my elbow spots about 6 months ago. There has been a significant change, but I’ll fill you in on that separately in a few weeks (with pictures!). I’m pretty impressed!
And that’s the bulk of it. I wouldn’t be me if there weren’t other things brewing, but you can only deal with so much at a time, so you pick your battles. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and that’s how things run with my body. If it’s quacking the loudest, it goes to the vet.
But I am still grateful. I am still happy. I am still passionate about the future. There are so many beautiful things in this world that I want to do my due diligence to make sure I get to experience and be a part of them. It is our job not to stop – to take a break as needed, of course – but this is a job that I won’t quit. It’s all just far too important.