The 80/20 Rule

When I was an acupuncture student, I was repeatedly told about the 80/20 rule. According to this rule, 80% of the population is responsive to acupuncture, and the other 20% is unaffected by it. As I went on with my studies, I simply took this as a given, and assumed that, one day, 20% of my patients would end up coming in to try it out, and never coming back. As graduation grew close, I mentioned this old theory to several of my instructors, with varying feedback. I had a few teachers tell me that that percentage was wildly off; that they had been practicing for years and saw far more than 80% of their clients get great results. Other instructors insisted that the results had more to do with the client's belief than in the medicine itself. And then there were a few who scoffed at those instructors who boasted of success rates of over 80%.

Now that I have my own practice, with my own patients, I will say that the 80/20 rule doesn't seem to apply. I have seen results in my patients that have been nothing short of miraculous, and I have seen slow and steady progress...but as of yet, I haven't had a single patient who hasn't had at least some degree of positive change.

Within the group of patients that I have seen over the years, I have noticed that there are some who are particularly reactive to treatments. These patients respond in all sorts of ways, but one thing that I have seen consistently is a strong sensitivity to the qi sensation. As I have mentioned before, this qi sensation is the feeling that arises within the patient when their energy comes into contact with the needle. This feeling varies from patient to patient, but many people experience it as an ache or heaviness around the needle site. For some patients, it takes several minutes of needle manipulation before they sense anything. For others, I simply put the needle in, and...BAM! Instant strong ache. Another sign of this qi sensitivity is a bright red ring around the needle. And I also tend to get very hot and feel a bit lightheaded when needling these types of patients.

Lately I have also become intrigued with the behavior of the needles with these types of patients. I was needling one of these qi-reactive patients the other day, and as I inserted the needles into points that were strongly indicated for his condition, it almost felt as if the patient's skin was sucking them in...as if that particular point was craving that needle, and some force was guiding it in. At the end of the treatment, I felt the needles gripping as if they didn't yet want to come out...so I waited a few more minutes, to let the patient "marinate." After a bit more time had passed, the needles were removed smoothly. I guess, at that point, that the needles were telling me he was done!