TCM: Educating Patients How They Heal

Patients who have never experienced acupuncture often come to the clinic with all sorts of questions and concerns:

Does it hurt?

Where are you going to put the needles?

How does acupuncture work?

How many treatments will I need? (More on this in a later post.)

There is also something that the patient won't ask, that I feel is very important, and that we should communicate to our patients so they can better understand the healing process:

How will healing occur with acupuncture and/or my herbal prescriptions?

In my experience patients heal two different ways.  However, before we get started, it's also important to let a patient know that their discomfort or condition may worsen slightly (and only for a couple of days) post-treatment.  There is a huge difference between making a pain area 'ache' a little more and causing them pain.  I have often described the post-acupuncture ache as if they had done a workout in a small, local area.  We have to be able to distinguish the two over a period of time in practice.

Scenario #1:


This, I find, is the most common scenario; the patient feels better for 2-3 days post-treatment and then their results fade a little.  Each treatment builds on the last one - perhaps similar to taking antibiotics.  It's important to tell our patients that just because their results fade between treatments, they are getting better. 

Scenario #2:


This doesn't occur as often; however, some patients start to feel better in percentages.  Because of this, I ask my patients to quantify their results out of 100%.  One-hundred percent means that the pain or condition is completely gone.  After a couple of treatments a patient could feel 50% better and this improvement will hold the entire time between the next treatment.

I often draw these two diagrams for patients on the initial visit.  The upward trajectory in health and healing is, I tell them, what I am after.

Final thoughts:

Some patients get discouraged - and rightfully so.  Many of them have struggled with their health condition for years.  However, when their pain area has diminished in size or they slept 2/5 days this week instead of none, we must then take the time to educate our patients that they are, in fact, healing!

Kenton Sefcik