Much is written about the benefits of acupuncture: how it improves circulation, relieves stress and anxiety, and treats the whole person instead of just a symptom here or there. Because it’s not a popular treatment for Westerners, though, it is sometimes be viewed with a veil of suspicion or simply avoided by Americans.
On the flip side, Western doctors have the means and the motivation to prescribe drugs for most ailments. Some are specialists, which means that instead of viewing, say, a patient’s heart as a part of his or her overall body, they simplify their scope by concentrating on the patient’s heart itself. The combination of prescribing drugs with ease and not considering a patient’s holistic health leaves much to be desired.
I started to go deaf in one ear in my mid-30s for a reason that would be described as the equivalent of winning the genetic lottery. The solution for this was to replace my defective ear bone with a prosthetic bone to restore my hearing.
The surgery went well, and during my follow-up appointment, my doctor complemented me on the healing that took place within my middle ear. Excited about my renewed ability to hear, I returned to work only to suffer from dizzy spells, vertigo, and extreme fatigue. A diagnosis of Meniere’s Disease proved to be the second of my lottery wins, as it is not a common ailment. I received the initial directions to reduce salt in my diet, increase my potassium intake, exercise, and take medication to manage the symptoms. The doctor prescribed diuretics, diazapam (also known as Valium), and anti-nausea medication, and asked that I follow up in a few months.
Given the combination of harsh, over-the-counter diuretics and Valium, which nearly wiped my memory banks clean, I struggled with the effects of these drugs at first. In addition, the pain that I suffered from the swelling within my middle ear was not addressed; the medicine acted like more of a distraction from than a cure for the swelling. Therefore, with high hopes and the need for relief, I sought the help of some acupuncturists who were situated near my office and home. I also worked with my physician to “step off” Valium, and switched to herbal diuretics, which are more gentle, as soon as this option became available to me through my acupuncturists.
The acupuncturists were able to explain far more to me about how to manage Meniere’s Disease than my physician had been. Granted, my physician told me that the ear swelling pressed on the amygdala, which is a part of the brain that governs feelings of anxiety and depression, but the acupuncturists were able to reduce the swelling of the ear and therefore minimize the pressure on the brain. They could needle areas of my head and neck to minimize pain, improve mobility, reduce the likelihood of migraine headaches (which had occurred often), improve circulation (which is imperative for healing), and help me let go of the anxiety caused by this health issue.
My acupuncturists also explained that the ears are connected to the kidneys, and the eyes are connected to the liver, according to Chinese wisdom. Interestingly, those who experience vertigo as a result of Meniere’s Disease often have excess fluid in the ear tubes as well as a fluttering of the eyelids and eyes that drift or move of their own accord. Therefore, enhancing the health of the liver and kidneys, such as through nutritional changes, doing a cleanse, or other healthy means, also helps in the recovery from Meniere’s Disease.
The fatigue I felt was correlated to my kidneys and liver, leaving me with a run-down level of energy. My physician’s orders to get aerobic physical exercise flew in the face of my lowered energy level, so first the fatigue and pain had to be addressed. Week after week, whether I was able to work or not, I received acupuncture for my Meniere’s Disease symptoms. Sometimes I would face the ceiling for the treatment, and other times I’d face the floor when the kidneys had to be needled directly. I would always notice an impact to my ears after the treatments. Happy kidneys equals happy ears.
The long-reaching effects of acupuncture were dramatic. I started walking and hula-hooping for exercise, and although I became tired quickly, my strength increased over months of consistent action. My dizzy spells and vertigo went from daily to weekly to monthly to once in a great while. In addition to physical improvement, my memory started to recover as well. The swelling in my ear has almost disappeared; some days, I have the energy and balance that I did prior to my surgery, and with better hearing too.
For those who suffer from Meniere’s Disease, I feel that the Western approach is simply inadequate. “Change your diet, take these pills, and return for a follow-up visit” doesn’t begin to meet the needs of someone with head pain who can be helped and healed immediately with acupuncture. Although some patients in the Western world may fear needles or argue the validity of acupuncture, I highly encourage anyone who needs this kind of help to seek out every solution possible.
Acupuncture saved me from the ill effects of Meniere’s Disease. Thanks to it, I am able to think, remember, walk in a straight line, work, drive, exercise, and enjoy life. Things like vertigo have been relegated to my character-building past, while things like starting new projects, jobs, and enjoying life are back on the front burner where they belong. I encourage anyone with a debilitating problem to explore acupuncture as a possible treatment or solution.
Acupuncture did more than minimize my anxiety (as my physician said it might); rather, it took away the reason for the anxiety itself. It’s changed my life.