Cure things

Sore feet, hair loss and backne-not exactly the relaxing stuff of spa roundups. But these treatments fix what ails you and help you chill out.

BACK SPASMS  |  HAIR LOSS  |  ADULT ACNE  |  LOWER-BACK PAIN  |  ACHING FEET  |  BLOAT



Insomnia


INSOMNIA "I found it easier to get back to sleep, and stopped relying on the pills to knock me out if I stirred at 4am."

About five years ago I began suffering from insomnia—it was the side effect of a medication I was on at the time. When I complained about it to my doctor, she wrote a prescription for Ambien, and I spent most of the next few years on such aids. Typically, the pills put me to sleep pretty quickly, but more often than not I'd wake up after just three or four hours. When I tried Lunesta and Ambien CR (a time-delayed version of the drug formulated specifically for problems like mine), the results were largely the same: Getting to sleep was easy, getting back to sleep wasn't. When the opportunity arose to address my sleeping problems via needles, I jumped at it.

Although Western medicine can't explain why acupuncture works for so many people, studies suggest that the fine metal pins rewire the nervous system, stimulating the body to release painkilling endorphins and encouraging the release of neurotransmitters (such as serotonin). Whatever, I just wanted some sleep. So just before the New Year, I began receiving weekly acupuncture treatments from Ming-Yi Zhu at Longevity Health (12 W 27th St between Broadway and Sixth Ave, ninth floor; 212-675-9355 ). Not long after the first session (60 minutes for $90), I found myself sleeping more deeply than before, and feeling much more rested when I awoke. I still got up often in the middle of the night (my treatments were usually on Thursdays; the effects would be strongest over the weekend and drop off as the week progressed), but I found it easier to get back to sleep, and stopped relying on the pills to knock me out if I stirred at 4am.

The most notable effect was on my sleep at other times. I've always been someone who could function on five to six hours' rest, and I'd never been much of a napper. Suddenly, though, I found myself taking more and more naps on the weekend—I'd get up around 8:30 on Saturday morning, walk my dog and then, even after a big coffee loaded with sugar, I'd be possessed by a mighty urge to head back to bed for three or four more hours. On Friday nights, if I didn't plan on meeting friends until later, I'd grab two or three hours of shut-eye before going out. Sometimes I'd find myself spending the better part of Sunday afternoon in bed.

Obviously it would have been nice to get more sleep in the middle of the night, and it was a drag getting my head back in the game after a nap (especially on weekdays, when I'd grab an extra hour of sleep between walking the dog and going to work). But some additional sleep is a heck of a lot better than none, and the improvement in my concentration and energy level more than compensated for dozing away a decent chunk of my weekend. Although I still take a conventional sleep aid at night, all my extraneous sleep has been unassisted by pharmaceuticals, and I feel far less dependent on them than before. My package of six acupuncture sessions is up, but I'm going to keep going back. —Andrew Johnston

OR TRY

John Pai
Get treated by the former director of the Acupuncture Department at China Medical College Hospital (paiwj@yahoo.com).

Hongwei Liu
We all have our guy. When it comes to acupuncture, this is ours. 141 E 55th St at Lexington Ave (212-920-4528); 60 minutes for $70 (first session 90 minutes for $110)