"Acupuncture Didn't Work For Me"

I hear this a lot.

I know, you are all probably asking yourselves why an ACUPUNCTURIST would be writing about how what she does for a living doesn’t work. But hear me out.

Acupuncture is slowly becoming more mainstream, but it still isn’t most peoples' initial go-to for health issues. Take rotator cuff injuries. Generally, people start with Western doctors…then medication…then PT, then cortisone shots…and maybe surgery. Perhaps before surgery they’ll give acupuncture a try. But many of my patients see me as a “physician of last resort.” They’ve gone down every other avenue, and I’m their last potential option.

For these types of people, if the acupuncture doesn’t work, it’s just another thing they’ve tried that did nothing for their pain. And they will usually think back on the experience and tell people that, well, “acupuncture doesn’t work.”

Earlier this year, I started seeing a patient who was suffering from migraines. She had tried acupuncture before. It didn’t work.

My first question when I hear this is always, “How many sessions did you have?” The more long-standing the issue, the longer it takes to reverse it. You’d be amazed at how many people expect complete resolution from their 30 year pain condition in 30 minutes. And even if they feel 50% better after the first session, they feel like it “didn’t work.”

But I digress…

This woman had given acupuncture MORE than a fair shot. She had gone for months, and had no relief. As she spoke with me, I could tell that she had no confidence that this would help, and I was impressed that she was willing to give it another try. It’s hard enough to stretch beyond your comfort zone and do something unfamiliar; when it doesn’t work after that many months, I wouldn’t blame her for just giving up on it.

I explained that we acupuncturists all have different styles and techniques, and that I’d do my best for her.

Fast-forward to six months later, and she is living a migraine-free life.

We spoke about this the other day, as she marveled over how different her life had become now that she could plan things without fear of having to leave early, or avoiding fun activities because she knew that she’d likely have to cancel due to the pain. “Who would’ve thought that after trying it before, this time it would work? Do you think that other acupuncturist knew what she was doing?” she asked.

“As much as my narcissistic side would love to take credit for giving better treatments than anyone around, it’s really more a matter of technique and style. We respond differently to different types of treatment, and her style probably didn’t resonate with you. It doesn’t mean that she was a bad acupuncturist. I mean, think about massage. If you’re a delicate person who hates a lot of deep work, and you found a massage therapist who was amazing but only does deep tissue massage, you wouldn’t think of them as bad at their job-only that you didn’t pick a good match for what you need. I like getting deep work. If I went to someone who specialized in lymphatic massage, where they barely touch you, I wouldn’t dismiss them as a crappy practitioner-they just aren’t a good match for my body’s needs. People need to realize this about acupuncture, because it’s such a powerful tool. It’s sad when they try one person and immediately write off the medicine as a whole because they didn’t connect with that particular style. You know what? I should write a blog about this!”

And here it is!

If you are living with pain, dysfunction, emotional issues…and you’ve tried one acupuncturist who didn’t seem to help you, it’s well worth giving it another try with someone new. You could be passing up the opportunity to live a better life simply because you never had anyone explain to you that we are all so different.