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Why I Became an Acupuncturist

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Many have asked me over the last 17+ years in practice why I became an acupuncturist. Learn my story, my introduction to acupuncture - and what resulted.




“Nicole, why did you become an acupuncturist?”


I have been asked this question often throughout my seventeen years in practice.


When I was in my twenties, I took up figure skating, a sport that most start much younger. I fell in love with it, and I practiced – a lot. The rigorous, self-imposed training brought numerous overuse injuries. My coach, at the time, suggested I try acupuncture. I had never heard of acupuncture. Her husband was a triathlete, and he relied on it. I made an appointment.


The person I went to didn’t speak much English. He smiled and nodded. His wife, and receptionist, also smiled and nodded. Not much was explained to me. My first treatment didn’t stand out – but my second one, I’ll never forget.


Nearly my entire life up until that point, for as long as I could remember, every winter I suffered with chronic, severe sore throats so awful, it felt as though I were swallowing razor blades. They would keep me up all night. The day before my next acupuncture appointment, the sore throat hit, so bad, I lost my voice, which would often happen.


The acupuncturist changed course, and rather than a second treatment for my muscles, he focused on the sore throat. I can’t remember everything he needled, since it was so long ago, but I do remember a point on my hand, between my thumb and forefinger, that he chose, which I now know is called LI4. (In another podcast I’ll explain how points are named.) He needled it so strongly it felt as though my hand was stuck to the table, literally. He left me in the room for an hour – no heads-up, no checking on me!.


Sixty long minutes later, he came back, lights popped on, and needles came out. I told him I thought he’d forgotten about me, and he – smiled and nodded. He saw me to the desk, where his wife smiled and nodded and handed me a bag of tea.


“Drink, drink,” she said.


“How often?”


“Drink, drink.”


I smiled and nodded, paid, and left.


Driving home, I could barely get my fingers over the steering wheel, they were so sore from where the needles had been. As soon as I got upstairs to my apartment, I made the tea. It was soothing, a little sweet for my taste, but pleasant.


I finished out my day and went to bed. In the middle of the night, a miracle happened.


I woke up. Swallowed. Wait a minute, I’d thought. I sat up. Turned on the light. Swallowed again. No pain. This couldn’t be.


It was like that all night. I kept swallowing, expecting the pain to return. It didn’t. I wanted to cry out in joy and sing in the streets.


For years and countless hours, I had suffered with this pain, had slept with Chloraseptic next to my bed, spraying that awful stuff, which I now know is made of phenol, red dye 40, and artificial sweetener, onto the back of my throat, hating the taste and how it made my stomach feel sick, and it didn’t even work that well. Now, after having just one acupuncture treatment, my sore throat was gone.


Needless to say, the experience made quite an impression on me.


My undergraduate degree at the time was pre-med, biology. I knew I had wanted to go into medicine, to help people, but I had been struggling with the fact that no encounter with any doctor had ever given me results, had never resulted in satisfying answers, and had always involved the push of some drug, rather than finding out why I was having a particular symptom. I didn’t want to become the same person. I wanted to actually fix problems, not cause more of them by prescribing drugs.


Another fortuitous event occurred, not long thereafter.


I was getting out. I’d decided to leave the northeast coast and head to sunniest skies, warmer temps, in southern California. As part of my plan, I wanted to work solidly for one year, without the burden of school, to save money for the relocation. I checked the ads in the local newspaper. Yes, with a pen, circling anything that could be a possibility. (I will never miss doing that!)


One ad caught my eye.


Temporary, part-time position – clean up our medical billing accounts.


Hmm.


While in school, I’d worked for a medical doctor, pretty much learning everything in the office, from medical assisting, to front desk, I’d been given headship to run a wellness workout center for seniors on the complex, and also made associate billing manager. I’d learned everything I possibly could about how to get money from stubborn insurance companies, and I was good at it.


I answered the ad. Scheduled an interview. Guess what type of practice the office was?


That’s right – acupuncture.


Although I became their billing manager and yes, cleaned up all their files and got payments they never thought they’d see, I expressed interest in possibly pursuing acupuncture as a career. On some days I assisted the acupuncturist and helped with patients and treatments. The office had seven treatment rooms, which were full nearly all the time. I realized that acupuncture can treat anything and everything. And it worked. People were happy, getting results, they enjoyed going.


I applied to acupuncture school in California and, even though the office I worked for had wanted me to stay, I flew across the country to begin a new life. And that is how I chose acupuncture.


How I ended up here, in Connecticut, after living in Paris, is a story for another time. Perhaps on this podcast…



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