Sunday, 10 July 2011

Does Acupuncture Work and How Many Sessions Will I Need?

In Chinese Medicine, the goal is to provide the patient relief from their symptoms, as well as to address the underlying cause of the symptoms. Symptoms are the last piece of the puzzle to appear. In general, the conditions that created the symptoms were in place long before the symptoms actually started to appear. The underlying conditions are often multi-factorial and tend to go unnoticed by the patient for years... until the symptoms become more frequent and intense.
Let's use the "Leaky Roof" analogy: Imagine that your roof has a leak, and every time it rains, water begins to drip in to the house, making the floor and carpets wet. After some time, the roof and the carpets begin to mold and the wood and ceiling begin to rot. If we were to just fix the SYMPTOMS, we would place a bucket under the leak, catching the water, so that the floor stays dry. However, over time, the ceiling continues to rot and mold and if the outside stressors are strong enough (eg. Heavy rainstorm), the bucket isn't big enough to hold all the water and overflows on to the carpet and floor. Over time, the temporary, symptom relief approach becomes inadequate, and doesn't actually solve the problem (the mold and rotting), because we didn't actually address the cause (the leak in the roof).
Now, let's say the home owner still does not want to spend the time and money to fix the CAUSE of the problem. So instead, they tape a piece of plastic over the leak in the roof. This seems to be effective for a while, however, the roof continues to rot and mold, and eventually the plastic breaks. You get the point. Sure, you could continue to cover the leak with plastic over and over, or use the bucket approach each time it rains, however, eventually, the mold and rotting will cause further problems. People in the house start to develop allergies to the mold that is growing, and after awhile, the rotting causes structural damage to the house, and the roof begins to buckle. You now have more and more symptoms developing from the same root cause. It no longer is safe to leave it as it is. The amount of time and money that is now needed to replace the roof is significantly more than it would have been to fix the original leak when it was still small and manageable.
Symptom Relief = the bucket and the taped plastic
Correction = fixing the roof
Like the roof, our bodies will give us subtle signs that there is a problem (eg. elevated cholesterol as a precursor to heart disease, or occasional aches & pain becoming chronic pain). If we continue to ignore those signs, or are not aware of them initially, they will often turn in to larger problems, causing more frequent and more disruptive symptoms. In an ideal world, if a patient came in soon enough, Chinese medicine is able to look for these subtleties and treats them BEFORE they become a problem. However, it is often the case that patients do not seek treatment until they are actually experiencing bigger symptoms. Chinese medicine and acupuncture focuses on providing the patient with relief from their symptoms, as well as treating the root cause of their problems, to prevent the symptoms from returning, and to provide long-lasting relief and well-being.
An additional step to making sure that symptoms do not return is maintenance. In the case of the leaky roof, maintenance would entail inspecting the house and treating minor damage BEFORE it becomes a bigger problem.


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