Jun 14, 2012

Acupuncture May Support Autonomic Function

I have decided to give acupuncture another try. I tried it nearly 5 years ago following my car accident before my POTS had been diagnosed. I was very, very sick at the time. My acupuncturist always commented on my fast pulse and how it would eventually settle after I had been laying on the table for awhile. At the time he determined I was suffering from adrenal fatigue, (which I probably was) in addition to the undiagnosed autonomic dysfunction.

It was the lowest point of my life, when I wasn't sleeping for days on end, consumed by the chronic TMJ headache and tachycardia. I could barely even describe my symptoms at the time, they were all consuming and I was truly afraid I was dying. Just to think back to that time makes me shudder. I've come a long way since then, but my jaw seems to be getting worse. As I mentioned before, I have these stubborn muscle knots behind each ear that also cause earaches. Nearly every doctor I've been to has diagnosed me with TMJD. What brought me back to the acupuncturist is the fact that he knows how to use needles. I'm hoping to try some dry needling of the muscle knots there to see if it will break the spasm cycle and for how long.

As far as acupuncture is concerned, I believe there is some real validity in the science behind the centuries-old practice. This is not to say I have totally given up on all realms of conventional medicine (at least not yet!) but that I think eastern medicine more effectively assesses the patient as a whole, interconnected being instead of simply another number to send home with a prescription. Western medicine tends to rely too heavily on chemical pharmaceuticals, dispensing a different pill for each separate symptom while never stopping to consider if symptoms are somehow related.

In a perfect world, everyone would have easy access to truly integrative medicine, where doctors of all disciplines unite to most effectively treat the patient and all their ailments. I have yet to find a place like that around here. Eastern and western medicine should work well together instead of against each other. Many conventional practitioners dismiss the effectiveness of acupuncture or consider it some sort of voodoo magic. Acupuncture, however, is not magic, but rather a slow healing process that has been scientifically proven to effectively treat many conditions. I believe there are many ailments that respond well to acupuncture and many that require the intervention of more westernized medicine (i.e. my appendicitis earlier this year). However I have to wonder why my appendix went bad in the first place. Would it have still gone bad if my body were healthier on the whole? Perhaps. Or perhaps not.

I had my first session today and so far so good. No significant noticeable progress yet but no worsening of symptoms either. As long as my insurance approves this, I intend to continue with acupuncture sessions this year to improve my overall health and hopefully combat these painful muscle spasms. I read something interesting the other day, a current theory on the mechanism of acupuncture worth sharing:

Autonomic Nervous System Theory: Acupuncture stimulates the release of norepinephrine, acetylcholine and several types of opioids, affecting changes in their turnover rate, normalizing the autonomic nervous system and reducing pain.

Therefore, acupuncture should only help improve my POTS symptoms too. I will continue to provide updates on my adventures in acupuncture. Stay tuned.


  1. Hi there,
    I have recently been diagnosed with POTS myself and have been contemplating acupuncture. What are your thoughts? Did it help you??

    Thanks in advance,

  2. Hi Nikki!

    I am glad to hear you're considering acupuncture. I have tried two courses of it and I can confidently say that it helped my circulation as my hands and feet are normally icy and after acupuncture treatments that was greatly improved! I think it would definitely be worth your while to give a couple sessions of acupunture a try to find out if it's right for you. My thoughts are, it's not going to hurt to try, it can only help! So check and see if your insurance will cover it and if you can invest a few hours of your time I'd say it would be well worth your effort. However, also make sure you're being treated by a primary care doctor for your POTS as acupuncture is intended as an adjunct treatment to your other care but will not replace standard medical care from your cardiologist or primary care physician.

  3. did it help? I'm thinking of doing it.