Community Acupuncture For the Win

After suffering from neck pain for almost a year and going to physical therapy for 8 months, I went to the doctor and told him I’d had enough. The physical therapy was helping to some extent but not giving me the relief I had expected. It wasn’t long lasting and by the time my next appointment would roll around, my neck muscles were spasming as badly as before. 

My doctor suggested I try acupuncture. I was quoted a $200 initial exam fee and $180/session from an M.D. in the same clinic as my primary care doctor. At my work benefit fair, I spoke with an acupuncturist who said he would provide a first visit for free. The subsequent visits would be around $60. 

Nope. Neither of those options would work for me. Then I head about Working Class Acupuncture, the clinic that started the community acupuncture movement. I used the locate a clinic feature on the POCA website to find a clinic near my house, and booked my appointment online.

Here’s the gist of how it works: you pay $15-$35 per visit. It’s up to you how much you pay within that range. Insurance is not billed. The “community” part of the process is that you have no privacy during the acupuncture treatment. At my clinic, there’s a very small reception area where you pay for treatment, make appointments, speak to the acupuncturist and fill out a health history. If there are other people in the reception area, they hear everything you talk about. (Thankfully there was no one else in the room when we went over my health history. That would have been awkward!) She explains the process and then you go into a room where all patients are being treated. 

At my first appointment, there were five other people in the room being treated at the same time. You lay down on your back in a reclining chair and the needles are placed as needed below the knee, below the elbow and in the ears and head. Since there’s no privacy, you do not undress and needles are not placed in locations that would require privacy or the need to change into a gown. 

The room was dimly lit and there was plenty of white noise from a fan and soft music. Most everyone fell asleep while I was there. I did, too! It was so peaceful and once you get over the fact that there are other people in the room (some who are snoring), it feels just fine. You also get to choose the length of your treatment, which can range from a half hour to an hour. The acupuncturist checks on all patients periodically and answers questions in a whisper. 

It was an awesome experience. It reminded me of getting a massage in Thailand at a Buddhist temple. You pay a small fee and then get a massage in a giant room while a lot of other people get massages at the same time. There’s no privacy but totally worth the sacrifice of not being in your own personal room because it’s cheap and effective. 

I don’t claim to understand how acupuncture works except I know this much: at the end of an hour, my neck felt a lot better. I’m definitely going back!

Have you tried acupuncture? What did you think?

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