Everybody is different. Progress in health shows up in different and sometimes unpredictable ways. This applies to acupuncture as well. What makes it unpredictable is that while we have the same body parts and the same basic physiology, we all have different influences on our health – different lifestyle habits, different food choices, different childhoods, different genetics. Here are five paths to progress that I often see in the clinic:
1. Gradual: Slow and steady – each treatment getting a little better and a little better.
2. Zigzag: This path has many stops and starts. Some improvement, maybe a plateau, more improvement, a little backsliding, then more improvement. Common in chronic issues with an unhealthy lifestyle that creates some setbacks, or trying to overdo activity when the pain starts going away but before the benefits are stabilized.
3. Dramatic Start: Right out of the first treatment, a huge leap upwards and then steadies quickly. Often seen in mild cases or acute symptoms. Also seen when the patient is working on other lifestyle improvements and just needs a boost in the right direction.
4. Delayed Leap: Nothing, nothing, nothing, then ‘boom’ – a noticeable shift towards improvement. Like pushing a stalled car in neutral, it takes a lot of effort to get it rolling at first, then it starts going on its own.
5. Stability: This one is the trickiest to see. It is a steady line, preventing backsliding. It can be frustrating to the patient because it might feel like nothing is happening, but it’s not until a break from treatment that the patient realizes how important acupuncture was in preventing any worsening of symptoms. Sometimes seen with chronic long-term or multiple concurrent illnesses.
I can’t tell you which way treatment will go for you – this comes out during the first four to six treatments when we see how your body responds to acupuncture. It is natural for everyone to want the dramatic start. You want to feel better and you want to feel better NOW. But if your first treatment isn’t dramatic, don’t lose hope. It took time to get where you are today, and it may take time to get where you want to be.