You might see better function before you feel less pain

Three people walking up stairs

Let’s talk about what progress means.

First, I will wholeheartedly acknowledge it is perfectly normal to be hoping for immediate results from an acupuncture treatment and wishing to be instantly pain free.

Everyone wants that. I want that too when I’m a patient myself.

Most often, progress appears gradually over time.

It’s important know what signs to look for, so you don’t feel discouraged.

I treat people with a lot of different pain conditions – back pain, knee pain, headaches, etc. – and we often use pain as a measure of progress.

At your follow-up appointment, I ask…

What are you feeling today?
How intense is the pain on a scale of 1 to 10?

But pain is only one part of the story – admittedly a very attention-getting part – but still only part of the story.

I also want you to look at how you are functioning, as well as how much pain medication you need.

Can you do more than you used to?
Can you sleep better through the night?
How much medication have you taken?
What activities have you been able to do?

These indicators also show your progress, independently from pain.

Let me give you an example:

Me: How has your shoulder been doing since last treatment?

Patient: It was better after treatment for a couple of days but it’s been really painful for the past five days. I don’t think acupuncture is helping.

Me: How intense is the pain right now on a scale of 1 to 10.

Patient: Probably a 7 or 8.

Me: That’s pretty painful – last time it was more around a 5-6. Tell me more about your week.

Patient: Well I rested the day after the appointment and was feeling good, so over the weekend I caught up on yardwork.

Me: What did you do?

Patient: I trimmed some bushes, cut down a couple of branches, and mowed.

Me: When was the last time you did things like that?

Patient: Oh, I haven’t done any yardwork yet this summer, I had to have the neighbor’s kid help me.

Me: Last time you mentioned you were needing prescription pain medication at least 3 nights a week to be able to stop the pain enough to fall asleep. How many did you need this week?

Patient: Only 1 – the second night after trimming the yard.

Me: So it sounds like you were able to do much more this week and were able to reduce your pain medication.

Patient: That’s true, now that I think about it.

Do you see the signs of progress in that conversation?

I have similar conversations quite often. When you’re in pain, it is so easy to forget how far you’ve come because pain is still drawing your attention.

At first, the patient above rated his treatment only based on the presence of pain, so it looked like the previous treatment didn’t help because he had more pain when he came in next.

However, digging deeper – he actually had much less pain the first two days. He was able to do intensive yardwork for the first time in 3 months, and cut his prescription pain medication down by a third.

Even though his pain level was higher, that treatment was actually a resounding success.

If you’d like to book an acupuncture appointment to help reduce pain and restore function, you can schedule online here or call us at 815-942-2580.

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