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Adventures In Acupuncture V

This is part 5 of an on-going series of articles about the use of acupuncture in treating the effects of multiple sclerosis, especially blindness.  See Part 1 herePart 2 herePart 3 here, and part 4 here.  The standard Western medical approach gave no hope for recovery, and the use of life-long drugs (with distasteful side-effects) offered a ‘possible’ protection from further attacks.
This is week five of acupuncture, and I've received a total of eight treatments.  At this point, I seem to have reached a plateau, with incremental gains, but noting Earth-shattering.

The sin she has gotten more aggressive, and we are adding a third treatment each week.  Now I will be going to the clinic on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, though this coming week, I will be out of town on Saturday.

By 'aggressive,' I mean that some of it is very uncomfortable, and even downright painful.  My wife, who had been considering using acupuncture for her own complaints, has had second thoughts after watching me.  The really difficult part is that the more tense you are, the more difficult it is to insert and seat the needles correctly.  I don't particularly like needles in the first place, and having them jammed into various parts of my body and wired to a 'thumper' (what I call the battery pack that delivers current to the needles) challenges my ability to relax.

The two needles that are placed into the back of my neck, just under the base of the skull, are dug in so deep that they cause my eyelids to flutter and a 'twinge' that I can feel from head to toe.  The two that are placed on either side of the bridge of my nose are pushed in until I can feel them touching my eye balls.  The ones above the outside of my ankles are downright painful, if I move my feet at all, even to wiggle my toes.

I know what the sin she is doing, and what the theory is behind it all, which is why I chose acupuncture as a modality.  It doesn't make it any easier to tolerate, though.  But, I am receiving some benefit from it, so I will persist until my immediate commitment of three months.

You may be asking yourself, why have I chosen do submit to this?  Well, to answer that, it may be instructive to go back and look at what's wrong, and then see my reasoning.

Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune disorder, in which the immune system suddenly decides that the myelin sheath on the nerves is an invader, and so attacks it.  Current theory is undecided as whether it is genetic or environmental.  In my studies, I have come to the conclusion that one is genetically susceptible, but there is an environmental trigger.

In my case, I have come to the conclusion that the trigger was aspertame.  I have made exhaustive lists of everything I ate and drank in the week prior to the attack.  The only thing that wasn't part of my regular diet was Mylanta, which I was taking for a particularly sour stomach.  I almost never use things like Mylanta, but I was desperate for some relief.  Listed on the ingredients is aspertame, which normally I would not eat at all, since most of what I eat is meat and vegetables that are fresh and unprocessed.

The reason I blame aspertame is because it is a powerful neuro-toxin produced by E. coli.  I am convinced that ingesting large amounts of it too quickly will cause problems for just about anyone, much less those predisposed to multiple sclerosis.  There are others, such as MSG and improperly cooked cassava root, which are both common in foods here in Indonesia, but I avoid both and I didn't have any in the week prior to my attack.  (As a side note, I have accidentally eaten cassava/singkong twice in the past couple of years, and there is a strong effect on my eyesight within 12 hours)

At any rate, after the body attacks the nerves, it leaves scars called 'sclera.'  The sclera block the signals from the nerves, and so cause various problems with the senses and motor control.  The senses are the easiest to notice, at first.  When your sight, hearing and touch are profoundly affected, there's an immediate feedback.  The motor control is a bit more insidious.  It creeps in year after year until one is bed-ridden or must use a wheelchair to get around.

Some people have particularly aggressive forms, in which they have frequent attacks and deteriorate rapidly.  Others may only have one attack, but then suffer a long, slow deterioration over many years.  The disease seems to strike primarily over-40 folks, with a preference for women, though statistically only a small number.

My attack felt like the onset of a very bad flu.  I felt extremely weak and tired, like my limbs weighed hundreds of pounds.  I laid down for no more than five minutes, and when I opened my eyes, everything appeared vastly over-exposed.  Within 24 hours, my world had gone black.  The textbook treatment is heavy doses of steroids to reduce inflammation of the nerves and restore as much as possible.  After that, the only options for treatment in Western medicine are to pop pills for the rest of your life in the hopes that they will prevent future attacks.  However, there are no guarantees, the pills are rather expensive and the side-effects are quite undesirable.  I opted not to go that route, and instead seek alternative means to control, and possibly cure, the situation.

After quite a bit of study, and a certain amount of intuitive reasoning, I decided to go with acupuncture, combined with a vitamin/mineral regimen, and various herbal supplements.  I had read a number of papers and testimonials concerning the efficacy of acupuncture in treating MS, and intuitively, stimulating the nerves seemed like a reasonable means to restoring them.  Everything I found, though, said that acupuncture worked best when combined with other modalities, which is why I have focused on the vitamins, herbs and reflexology, which is a form of non-invasive acupuncture.

With that said, I have now finished eight sessions of acupuncture.  I have noticed some rather amazing effects, though from an outside observer, it may not seem like much.

Previous to treatment, I was only able to perceive the color blue with any certainly, and even that was not very strong in my central vision.  After three or four sessions, I noticed colors starting to come back across my entire field of view.  The first one to reappear was yellow, which is the compliment to blue.  That meant that my blue cones were being re-invigorated.  Lately, the colors red and green are increasing, as well.  That implies that the red cones are turning on again, as well.  The colors are increasing across my entire field of view, and not just in the peripheral areas.  My night vision has improved the most, to the point where I can make out details and colors at night, which is a major advancement.  Previously, I could only see with any certainty for about six feet around me.  After that, all I saw was lights floating in black velvet.

I am perceiving more detail at greater distances, as well.  Things I can see sharply have moved out from about six feet to more than 20 feet.  I can see individual leaves on trees, up to a point.  I can see more detail further ahead, which makes walking much easier.

I still have problems in dynamic situations, where things are changing rapidly.  Crowds and traffic are particularly disorienting and exhausting.  I also still have problems with people's faces.  A lot of what we read from people, as far as recognition and other information, requires a lot of detail.  People that I know very well are easy, but I rely on a lot of other information, like voice, body shape, hair style, etc.  Some people are more distinct than others, as well, and that helps in some cases.  In any case, I still have a hard time reading emotions using facial characteristics, and I have to scan someone's face constantly, since I can only clearly see an eye, or the mouth, at any one time.

My sense of balance has increased and I feel more stable when walking or doing things that require a strong sense.  Carrying loads up and down stairs is one example where I have a particular problem, with regard to balance.

When it comes to acupuncture, there is a definite hyper-state immediately following treatment, which tends to stabilize over the following 24 hours.  Then there is a sort of tapering off over time after that.  The sin she wants to increase the number of treatments for that reason.  Apparently, acupuncture requires raising the activity in the nerves and keeping them in a hyperactive state in order to be most effective.  By moving to three sessions per week, she can keep the nerves at a super-active level with no more than 48 hours between treatments.

A couple of things I can highly recommend acupuncture for include sinus problems, aches and pains, and apparently weight-loss.  I have met a number of folks at the clinic who have attested to dramatic weight-loss using acupuncture.  In my own experience, I know that one treatment can cause my sinuses to literally snap open in a matter of minutes, and my sense of smell increases dramatically.  Also, if I tell the sin she about some pain (say...lower back) then she adds an extra needle or two, and the pain goes away almost immediately.  For those suffering from various chronic pains or sinus problems, I highly recommend acupuncture.  For those seeking to lose weight, you may want to investigate this further.  I can only offer what these folks have told me.

It's tempting to say that these effects are psycho-somatic, and I have gone to some effort to eliminate subjective variables, by using things like color bars and alignment charts to verify that I am actually receiving a benefit, and not just causing myself to think that I am.

And so the process continues.  I'm not really sure what the outcome will be, but I can say with some certainty that acupuncture does have an effect, and for some things it's rather dramatic and immediate.  I am seeing (pun intended) some benefit with my vision.  I somewhat of an up and down process, but more colors and greater detail are objectively proven.  Whether I will be able to drive again, or resume my work with cameras remains to be seen.  Those activities require a great amount of visual acuity.  At this point, I'm happy to walk down the street without falling in a hole.

More as things develop...

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