This Isn’t Working

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Recently, I had a patient ask me an interesting question: Do I ever tell a patient that acupuncture isn’t working for him/her and s/he should stop doing it?

Certainly, there are people who don’t seem to respond to acupuncture. But it’s a tough call to know when to “discharge” someone from care. On the one hand, as a practitioner I don’t want to lead patients on or give them false hope if the treatments aren’t helping. At the same time, I don’t want to give up on a patient who might see results down the road, especially when so many of my patients have had other health-care practitioners tell them, “There’s nothing I can do.”

So, what to do? In most cases, the decision needs to rest with the patient. If I feel that someone is not benefitting from the treatments, or the condition is not progressing as quickly as I would have liked, I ask the patient what s/he thinks.

Sometimes, the treatments are helping more than I realize, and the patient just hasn’t expressed this to me. Other times, the main symptom may not be improving, but other symptoms are (see my blog post on this topic). Or, the patient just likes to come in for an hour of relaxation and quiet time (the stress reduction that acupuncture provides can be a worthwhile goal in itself).

However, if the patient doesn’t feel s/he is benefitting from acupuncture (and if I don’t think this will change in the near future), it may be time to try something else. In that case, I am happy to recommend other health-care practitioners in the area.

It is also important to set realistic expectations at the beginning of starting treatment. Certain disorders, especially tendonitis or other inflammatory conditions, naturally take longer to respond and I try to convey this to new patients. If you have questions about your particular health concern, please contact us to talk about it in advance.

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