Plagued by migraines, back, and neck pain from a car accident several years ago, I’d tried everything…except for acupuncture. I kept hearing raves about how well it works. So when a Groupon for it popped up in my email, I decided to give it a try. I would be willing to become a human pin cushion if it meant being pain-free.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese alternative medicine used to treat patients for many different conditions. The list of things it can treat is long, including: asthma, depression, chemotherapy and radiation side effects, food allergies, hot flashes, infertility, insomnia, migraines, muscle pain and weight control. Acupuncturists use thin, sterilized needles that are inserted into muscle and tissue points in the skin. To me, the initial pricks of the needle are quick and rarely hurt. When they do, it feels like a bug bite and it lasts less than a minute.

How it Works

My amateur understanding of the process is that the needles redirect your flow of energy called Qi (pronounce as Chee). Acupuncture corrects the imbalances in the flow of your Qi through channels, also called meridians. The needles allow the channels to open up, redirect and create balance.

For me, the Groupon promotion made acupuncture much more affordable than the local going rate of around $80 a session. After four sessions I was noticing results. My back was looser and I couldn’t remember the date of my last migraine. I hadn’t taken any ibuprofen or smelled less like IcyHot in weeks. Is this what “normal” felt like?

When my Groupon services ran out, the acupuncture clinic suggested I call my health insurance provider to see if they covered it. I had a hunch they didn’t and unfortunately, I was correct. Then the holidays came and went and there were no out-of-pocket funds for acupuncture. My usual symptoms returned and then I got kidney stones–another irritating and expensive ailment that plagues me every year or so. Having become a “Krazy Coupon Lady” I knew there had to be some sort of deal out there on acupuncture, and I was determined to find it.

A Cheaper Alternative

If only I had done a web search sooner. It turns out a community acupuncture center was within five miles of my home this whole time. For a sliding scale fee of $15-35 they treat multiple patients in an open, community room. This large setting allows them to see many patients more quickly and saves costs of maintaining patient rooms. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure if I’d be comfortable being treated with other people nearby, but the memory of a pain-free me pushed me to make an appointment. It turns out my city, Milwaukee is not alone in this service. I searched several cities all over the country and here are just a few:

  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Phoenix
  • Orlando
  • Nashville
  • San Diego

Do a web search with your city name and “Community Acupuncture.”  You can also look for keywords of “sliding scale fee” or “communal setting.”

How Community Acupuncture Centers Work

  1. Schedule an appointment and expect to complete a health history and/or consultation.
  2. Arrive wearing loose fitting clothing.
  3. Find a comfy, reclining chair and wait for an acupuncturist to meet with you.
  4. After the needles have been inserted, be prepared to relax. I’ve noticed that some people meditate or sleep. I haven’t noticed a single person look at their phone or read. It is a very quiet and soothing environment that encourages noise at a whisper. Also, any concerns about privacy or being out of my comfort zone were quelled during my first appointment.
  5. Use the opportunity to zone out for 15-60 minutes. At my location the acupuncturists have accommodated my requests when I need to leave at an exact time.
  6. Discuss future appointments and a treatment plan.
  7. Have the needles removed and prepare to leave. Pay according to your location’s sliding scale.

Another plus is that you can submit receipts for your acupuncture to your flexible spending and health reimbursement arrangements!

Since I’ve never loved taking medicines or relying on pills, I have enjoyed the relaxing treatments in a place focused on alternative health. At this point in my treatment I am not completely ‘cured’, but I am happy to notice results, have looser muscles and a tighter wallet!

*Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. If you are still sitting on pins and needles about acupuncture (pun intended), please consult your doctor, acupuncturist, or health provider to discuss your individual needs. While the community acupuncture centers are nationwide, note that their systems, fees, and healing approaches may vary.

This has been a guest post by Leah from Milwaukee, WI
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