One of the questions which arises frequently for acupuncture treatment is – I have X condition – when should I come for acupuncture treatment?
1. Theres a famous Chinese saying you may have heard: ‘The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago: the second best time is now’.
Although Chinese medicine is an excellent intervention in emergency situations – performing over morphine for pain relief in a recent study (here), and getting international attention saving this mans life on a flight (here) I strongly recommend you do not come to your Acupuncturist when you are desperate, at breaking point, or the week before surgery hoping we can ‘fix’ an issue you have had for months in two treatments.
This may sound hilarious – its patently absurd, but it actually happens all the time. This leaves Acupuncturists wondering where we gave you the impression we trained at Hogworts: under no circumstances is potion making or wand waving part of our training (although I appreciate Chinese herbs and acupuncture needles may share a passing resemblance on first impression 🙂
Chinese medicine, particularly Acupuncture, can be a highly effective, very rapid treatment which may get results instantaneously or within minutes. We get a lot of attention for this and trust me, every single acupuncturist will have had this experience, where ‘one or two treatments fixed X situation’. Although this is possible with our medicine, its certainly not the most common outcome of a single treatment.
Please don’t think the treatment hasn’t worked if you don’t get this result – the most common, reliable way to benefit is from a series of treatments like every other medicine. You require a series of antibiotics, or several weeks taking a drug daily before you will see anything change at all. We usually start seeing results quicker than this but it does not mean you will get instant benefits, and under no circumstances will your Acupuncturist expect – or promise – these kind of results.
Be realistic, acupuncture is medicine not magic!
2. If you leave it till something is really, really bad, it will be more difficult and will take longer to resolve it. To translate more directly: prevention is better than cure. If you come to us in the initial stages of an illness, it may well be relatively simple and quick – like those stories you hear about. If you come to us for something you have had for decades, please expect a longer treatment time before resolution of your problem. We aren’t trying to make money out of you, we want to see you get better!! Please don’t hamstring that potential before we get started.
Chinese medicine, having been developed strategically and methodically over many hundreds of years, actually has a ‘formula’ for how long a conditions will take to heal: its one month per year you have had the condition. That means if you have had a chronic complaint for 15 years, you can expect more than a year for that issue to be completely resolved, to the point of it being consistent all the time. Most of us see results much quicker than this but strictly speaking, healing – real healing, not a stop gap ‘fix it’ can be slow process and a natural spiral will occur where situations get better and worse periodically based on external elements outside our, and your control. Get made redundant? have a relationship breakup? have a stressful event? yes, your previous issue will come up again – usually, and hopefully briefly. Its part of being human and alive. Sorry (not sorry!).
3. I completely understand: acupuncture is awesome. Its the only medicine I can think of where you can turn up, chill out on the table, and still get benefit. Awesome right?
I do urge urge you not to take this for granted. Although we can, absolutely, get results without your active participation, this will only get you so far. Acupuncturists are trained to provide individualised dietary, exercise and other lifestyle advice for the best healing of our patients, be that for injury maintenance and prevention, PMS, or fertility, immunity, anxiety and mood swings… you name it. Feel free to ask and pick our brains in the treatment time: thats what we’re here for. I promise you we don’t mind!
If all you do is turn up, it will take longer and more treatment for results. This is not rocket science, its just common sense. If you are eating something you are allergic to, your digestion will not improve. (yep, we see this frequently too)
While there is absolutely a place to turn up and zone out in acupuncture treatment ( please do) this is just one benefit we can offer you: we aren’t going to take everything away you love to do or eat, you may just need to make some adjustments to get the results you want and deserve. Engagement in your own health is the best, most reliable, and very rewarding outcome of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine: I honestly feel our best offering is the opportunity to understand yourself and your needs (not your superficial wants) more honestly and thus have greater authenticity and integrity. Chinese Medicine offers the potential for personal, deeper change: if you are ready to start, we can meet you there.