There are so many pains and health issues that bring people to our clinic. But over the years it is obvious to me that the motivation and expectations behind why people seek out acupuncture can be narrowed down to only 3 reasons. Whether its back pain or stress-induced insomnia, people come to us with certain assumptions of what acupuncture can do. Our job is to do our best in helping you resolve your problem, both in the short term, but more importantly for the future too!
1. Last resort for a new acute pain or injury
Some of our first time clients come for acupuncture because they’re experiencing a new acute pain. Often the cause of the pain is obvious such as with a sports injury or car accident. But just as often it’s a less obvious cause, like a neck or back suddenly spasming for no apparent reason – people say it happened because they slept in an awkward position. Whatever it is, it becomes urgent and really disrupts their ability to work or function. Acupuncture is usually not the first thing people go to for a new pain that won’t resolve. By the time they come for acupuncture, they’ve likely gone to the doctor and tried several things already – drugs, physio, chiro, massage, exercises/stretching, heat/cold – and nothing is working! They are desperate to get back to moving around easily and functioning again and have heard from a friend or from Google that acupuncture works.
2. Reset for chronic or recurring pain or health problem
The main reason clients seek out acupuncture and come back to us over time is because they have a recurring pain or health issue that flare up. This problem comes and goes a few times a year or maybe every couple of years – it could be back, neck, shoulder, leg and knee pain or headaches and migraines. Sometimes it’s insomnia, acid reflux or anxiety. The pain or health problem gets triggered through certain activities or circumstances and when that happens, acupuncture sessions with us help them “reset” back to normal living ….until the next time.
3. Maintenance and prevention
A third category of clients come for prevention and maintenance. They know that they have (or could have) a physical, physiological or emotional condition that arises into a life-disrupting state if left unattended. They seek out acupuncture proactively as a way to keep a former problem below that threshold and prevent further disruptive health problems evolving down the line. The occasional treatment keeps everything on track. Sometimes these treatments are regularly scheduled, but more often they are based on warning signs that indicate it is time to be getting another treatment. This strategy can be well worth it when you factor in the benefits of not suffering so much, fewer missed days at work, being able to do more of the things you love, and not aging with problems that will be more difficult to resolve later.
Acupuncture works by improving function and resilience, and does not remove the symptom directly.
Not so obviously, this third category of health maintenance and injury/disease prevention is actually the arena in which acupuncture operates most effectively. Many clients come reactively when they are in real trouble because that is their experience with how to use pain killers and the health care system. But actually, acupuncture is not working by “killing the pain” or changing the symptom directly like medications do. Acupuncture gives relief by supporting and resetting a person’s functional capacity to deal with an imbalance or disorder. The body is always healing itself, but by the time pain has flared up and symptoms are interfering with life, it’s much more difficult to reverse course. Often too, when an injury or disease lingers for a long time, a person’s physical, physiological and emotional vitality can become diminished. Healthy vigorous people respond best to health supporting modalities like acupuncture than those who are really run down and depleted.
Also, traditional acupuncture doesn’t only focus on the symptoms; it treats an individual’s constitutional health pattern which then both predicts and treats the root cause of disease and dysfunction. Many of these benefits of traditional acupuncture – better sleep, better energy, better mood, better mobility – are general elements of a healthy lifestyle that contribute to preventing a wide variety of downstream ailments that can break through if any of these factors is deficient for long enough.
Rethink how acupuncture and lifestyle are interacting
At our clinic, we encourage and coach clients who are in the chronic pain loop, to better understand how acupuncture and lifestyle are interacting. We recommend that you listen to your body and notice what it’s telling you – learn the warning signs that may not be so obvious at first glance. If you’re feeling ok, then it’s fine to carry on as normal. But, if you’re starting to feel like things are a bit off, or you are wise to your circumstances and patterns that will recreate your “pain”, schedule a treatment accordingly – before the reactive cycle starts again.
We always do our best to help you in whatever condition you’re in, but we’d much rather help you stay healthy in the first place – that’s our commitment to you!