We Tried It: Acupuncture to Help with Chronic Headaches

There’s something about sticking a bunch of needles in your body that sounds, well, traumatizing. But when I developed a chronic tension headache that just won’t let up (going on four months), countless people suggested I try acupuncture to see if the Chinese medicine would help out.

So, over the course of the past month, I’ve been getting poked by the licensed professionals at The Yinova Center in New York City. Here’s more about that process — and what to expect if you chose to pursue acupuncture.

What It Is: Acupuncture at The Yinova Center

Who Tried It: Lindsay Kimble, PEOPLE Staff Editor

Level of Difficulty: 2/10 (The acupuncturist does all the work while you just lay there and relax!)

So what exactly is acupuncture? The traditional Chinese medicine involves the insertion of very thin needles — sometimes thinner than a strand of hair — into various areas of the body, including the arms, legs, stomach and feet, either to improve pain, fertility or encourage overall wellness.

According to the Yinova website, “The term energy medicine refers to the wide range of healing modalities used to diagnose and treat illness by manipulating the energy — the vital life force referred to as ‘qi’ in traditional Chinese medicine — that pulses through the cells of our bodies.”

My sudden and unrelenting headache is mysterious — I’ve seen countless doctors and had all the “big” tests to ensure it’s nothing too serious. But it’s been painful, in fact, 24/7 pain for months with no relief from medicines. I’m at the “will try anything” stage, so was grateful for the opportunity to check out Yinova, which was started in 1999 by Dr. Jill Blakeway.

Blakeway is a doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, a licensed and board-certified acupuncturist, and clinical herbalist. She currently acts as clinic director alongside her husband, Noah Rubinstein. Yinova employs a team of board-certified & licensed acupuncturists, herbalists, and bodyworkers.

“I believe that people are best able to heal when they feel safe, so I aim for Yinova to be a warm, peaceful space where patients are treated with respect and not judged,” Blakeway — who recently published a new book, called Energy Medicine — tells PEOPLE.

I visited Yinova’s Flatiron office (which is decorated to look like it could be featured in Architectural Digest) where over the course of my visits I saw three different licensed acupuncturists. During the first session, the acupuncturist spent 30 minutes chatting about my headaches and general health approach and background, before we even got to the actual acupuncture. All the information is recorded and stored, so even if you see a different therapist, they’re up to date on your condition.

Upping the comfort factor, each room at Yinova has nice dim lighting, nice faux plants and is equipped with calming music.

At my first session, I expressed that I was a little nervous, and my acupuncturist quickly assuaged my fears. When she was actually inserting the needles, she calmly explained the process and encouraged me to speak out if I ever felt uncomfortable. They even give you a little buzzer, to ring in case you have any issues while laying with the needles.

After the first round, the session shortens to just an hour, with a brief check-in at the start and then around 30 minutes with the actual needles in. During the time, the lights are dimmed and one time I was so calm I almost fell asleep.

In addition to the acupuncture, I was prescribed some herbs, which I’ve been taking daily. At one session, I expressed that I felt a cold coming on and my acupuncturist prescribed some capsules which, much like Airborne, quickly banished the sickness.

While I’d love to say that my five sessions totally cured my headaches, that would be a lie. But the process has definitely been helpful in allowing me time to relax and shake off some of the anxiety and sadness that has come along with a sudden chronic issue.

I intend to keep visiting Yinova, and hopefully eventually become one of the surely countless people that acupuncture has helped.

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