Posted on 10:24 23/08/2017
Often when I tell people I'm an acupuncturist they comment "Oh I tried that once but it didn't work"! Why is it that acupuncture works for some people and not for others? There can be a number of reasons! In the clinic there are a number that I see commonly - here are the top six!
1. Acupuncture Wasn't the Right Treatment!
Sadly acupuncture can't treat everything! If you have a slipped disc, acupuncture can certainly help you with managing the pain but there is no way in the world that acupuncture can fix the problem. So how do you know it acupuncture can help? It can be tricky. Most acupuncturists have a website or other promotional material that gives you an idea of the things they treat most commonly. If you're still not sure, give them a call! Most acupuncturist will be quite happy to talk to you about your condition. Good questions to ask are: "Have you had experience in treating this condition?", "What kind of results do you usually get?" and "How do you usually treat it?".
Be aware that many acupuncturists will have promotional material or websites that say they "treat" various things. The word "treat" isn't always explained. A good acupuncturist will openly tell you that they can only help you manage the condition but can't resolve it. If you're unsure, ask them!
2. Unrealistic Expectations
John hurt his back playing football and when it didn't improve after three months came to me saying a friend had "the same" problems and it was fixed after a single acupuncture session. When I examined him it was clear that the injury would required several treatments. Certainly, there are some conditions that only require a single session but the vast majority require more. If you are seeking treatment for an injury that has occurred in the last day or so, it is more likely to be resolved in one or two sessions than an injury that occurred six months ago. In most cases there will some change after the first session but it may not last. A good acupuncturist will examine you and then give an idea of how many sessions you are looking at.
3. Too Long Between Treatments
When you first come for treatment, the acupuncturist will give you an idea of how often you need to come back. Generally, the treatments are closer together initially and then further apart as you get better. If there is too long between treatments, especially initially, there will be minimal, if any, improvement. Jossie rang me wanting to make an appointment for help with a irritable bowel syndrome. She told me she'd had for some time. During the conversation she mentioned she could come once but then would be away on holiday for a month. I recommended that she wait until she came back before starting treatment as a single treatment with a break of a month was unlikely to achieve anything. She agreed and made an appointment for the week she got back.
4. Missing Information
Susan came to me for treatment on a shoulder that had been sore for several months. After several treatments there had been improvement but no to the level I expected. As I was treating her one afternoon Susan mentioned her son had been killed in a traffic accident a month before she hurt her shoulder. She was still deeply traumatised by the loss. It was immediately clear to me that the emotional trauma caused by the loss of her son was impacting on the ability of her shoulder to heal! After talking to her, Susan agreed that we would change the focus of the treatment to supporting her in her grief with a secondary focus on the shoulder. To her surprise, the shoulder healed after a few more treatments. Most people would not see the link between grief and the shoulder injury but to an acupuncturist it is clear! Although a bit of information may not seem related to you, it's still important to mention it because it may be important to your treatment!
5. Stopping Treatment Early
Most acupuncturists will give you an idea of how many treatments you are going to need. In some cases, the condition may not respond as expected and more sessions will be required. It is always sad when a person stops coming just as they start to improve! Of course, there are many reasons for this: they may not be able to afford more treatment, they may change shifts and are unable to attend or they may not believe it is making a difference. If you don't think it's making a difference, talk to the acupuncturist about it. Sometimes the change is so gradual you don't notice it and other times the acupuncturist may change their treatment to get a better result. Robert came to me for treatment for his depression. After 6 treatments he told me that he didn't think it was making any difference and thought he might stop. I went back through his file with him and reminded him of some of the things he had said in the first session. Many of the things he had forgotten and it helped him to realise that there had been quite a difference since the first treatment but it had been so gradual he hadn't noticed. He was happy to continue treatment and every few weeks we would review his file to see the progress he had made.
6. Not Following Through
Most acupuncturist give their patients advice: what to eat or not to eat, drink more water or stay warm. Some will give specific exercises or stretches and some will recommend herbs or other supplements. Sometimes you may even be referred to a massage therapist or chiropractor for treatment which complements the acupuncture. These suggestions are made after the acupuncturist has considered your cases and worked out what will be most beneficial for your condition. Not doing the things suggested may mean the treatment isn't as successful or may mean your condition takes longer to improve. Matthew came to me for treatment after he'd had a stroke. His memory had been affected, had trouble articulating thoughts and had limited movement in one arm. I worked out a treatment regime which included acupuncture, some exercises to complement the acupuncture treatment and some speech exercises based on nursery rhymes. After a few treatments we were making progress but it was limited. Matthew admitted that he was having trouble remembering to do the exercises I had recommended. We discussed possible options that might help and Matthew decided the best way was to put a reminder on his phone. Once he started doing the exercises twice a day and the treatment became much more effective.
There are many other reasons why treatment may not work. If you feel your acupuncture treatment isn't work, talk to the acupuncturist. By discussing what is going on, you may actually find the problem and be able to resolve it so the treatment becomes more effective!