Is “Being Healthy” a Worthwhile Goal?

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The American culture is very goal oriented. There’s nothing wrong with that; it has made us a prosperous and productive nation. But sometimes that focus does us a disservice when it comes to our health.

Most of my new patients come in with a specific “main complaint”—a condition or set of symptoms that they want to improve or alleviate. Naturally, I try to do my best to attend to their concerns.

Acupuncture treatments usually have two components: a harmonizing treatment that addresses the patient’s overall health (we call this the “root” treatment), and a symptomatic (or, “branch”) treatment that aims to relieve the patient’s specific complaints.

The response to symptomatic treatments can be quite amazing; often, patients will experience immediate benefits. As a practitioner, it is very rewarding for me to see a patient’s suffering relieved.

Less obvious, but just as important, is the impact of the root treatment. No one completely understands the mechanisms behind acupuncture, but we do know that the treatment effects are the result of the body healing itself; acupuncture needles are just tiny messengers that nudge the body to get back on track.

What is exciting about this is that patients who come in with a specific main complaint often see improvements in other areas of their health. Just recently, a woman I was treating for shoulder pain told me that her energy level was also much improved since starting acupuncture treatments. That same day, a patient I was seeing for insomnia mentioned that his allergies were much better this year.

Both of these patients were experiencing improvement in their main complaints, which is what led them to keep coming back for treatment. The consistent treatment schedule allowed their bodies to begin to heal in other ways, as well.

But what if the main complaints hadn’t improved, or weren’t progressing as quickly as the patients had hoped? Unfortunately, many people in that instance would feel that their goal hadn’t been obtained and would stop coming in for treatment.

The disappointed patients might start thinking that acupuncture wasn’t helping them at all (for a more in-depth discussion of this, please read the blog of fellow community acupuncturist, Nicole Murray of Beach Community Acupuncture). And look what they would have missed out on—the possibility of experiencing improvement in multiple areas of their health!

Sometimes, the body’s short-term response to acupuncture can be slow or inconsistent. This doesn’t mean that the treatments are not producing positive changes. In fact, the more gradual nature of acupuncture is part of what makes it safe. Certainly, more invasive forms of treatment may produce quicker results, but they also tend to have unpleasant side effects.

This is why it may benefit us to stop thinking about our health in such specific, goal-oriented terms. Instead, decide if you are willing to trade a slightly longer time investment for a more rewarding overall outcome. While you are weighing your options, don’t forget that acupuncture treatments also include relaxing music and naps!

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