Sunday, March 30, 2008

Poke me, baby

One of the things that stressed me the most about having jaw surgery was the possibility that there would be nerve damage, leaving my chin and lower lip numb for a year or perhaps forever. My orthodontist told me the likelihood of permanent nerve damage increases with your age. As a 32-year-old undergoing the surgery, I had a 32% chance of permanent numbness.

This prospect was thoroughly unacceptable and made me determined to be in the 68% of people who regain full feeling in their lips and chin.

So, I did what I've done with pretty much everything surrounding this surgery: obsessive-compulsive research, or OCR for short. I found a number of homeopathic and natural remedies to help reduce inflammation and nerve pain, and I investigated acupuncture to help rejuvenate nerves.

I also stalked jaw surgery survivors. A friend had the surgery in her 40s and ended up with permanent nerve damage in her chin. When she finally discovered acupuncture, which helped her get some of the feeling back, the practitioner told her that he could have helped her get all of it back...if she had only come to him one month after the surgery, instead of one year later.

Some sharp needles in my face vs. not being to fully appreciate future make-out sessions = easy decision. I made the appointment for two weeks after the surgery. Stat.

You talkin' to me?
Can you tell I took this shot myself?

I had gone for acupuncture before, with mixed results. One practitioner took on so many patients that she made her storage closet into a treatment room. You'd be lying on the table, immobile (because needles were piercing various body parts, and moving would shoot pain up your limbs), and someone would walk in, reach up to pull something off the shelf above your head, and leave. And then someone else would do the same a few minutes later. She was also so busy that she'd even forget needles in you. I stopped going to her after discovering a large needle in my ankle and having to pull it out myself.

The other practitioner I saw could barely speak English. She had such a heavy Chinese accent that the majority of conversations with her involved the phrases, "What?" "Excuse me?" and "I'm sorry, I don't understand," as well as a fair bit of gesticulating. I don't know about you, but when someone is coming at you with a handful of sharp needles, it kind of helps to know what they're saying.

Regarding the acupuncture itself, both of the practitioners I saw were great at it and their treatments helped me feel a lot better. But when you've got a broken jaw, you just want to go to someone you're comfortable with. Fortunately, my new naturopath also practices acupuncture. I was relieved to discover this, as I really liked her, even though her elimination diet had nearly pushed me over the edge the last time I saw her.

A great up-the-nose shot. But you can see all the homeopathic and natural remedies in the background.
Plus, I have a cute nose, right?

I usually find acupuncture really relaxing. I go into a meditative state, and sometimes, I feel like I am levitating out of my body. Not this time, though, because my naturopath and I were goofing around with my camera, trying to get a shot that showed the needles in my face. The facial acupuncture needles are even thinner than the regular kind, so it was really hard to get them to show up in pictures.

Finally, we got a good one!

When she took the needles out from behind my ears, it was the strangest sensation - it felt like they were still there. I rubbed my skin, concerned that this was acupuncture déjà vu all over again, when she said, "Does it feel like they're still there? That means the chi is working."

I didn't know what that meant. But all I knew was that two weeks after my surgery, I had about 75% of the feeling back in my chin and lower lip. In the days following the acupuncture treatment, my feeling came back rapidly. By the one month post-surgery mark, I had 95% of it back, and today, I would say that I'm at about 98%.

Am I going back to get more needles stuck into me? H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks, yeah!


Katherine said...

Hear you about the fear of future kissing being disabled. The thought hit me one day & scares the kreebles out of me WAY more than potential pain/discomfort. "I feel, therefore I am" is more like it.

Glad the accupuncture is going so well for you...and with a practitioner that needs no interpretation/clarification of "OUCH!" Here's to that last 2% :)

Mylene said...

This is so very interesting to know. I haven't had my surgery yet, and I don't know if I'm in for both jaws yet or only the upper one, but no matter what I'm going to follow your lead and find myself a good acupuncturist. Thanks for sharing!


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