During lockdown I analysed all of my acupuncture notes for the last 5yrs – who I treated, what problems, number and types of treatment, and to what extent they did, or didn’t, benefit. I have treated 134 patients in my Clifton practice. Two thirds of them were women and nearly half of them were over 60 years old. Most people had less than ten treatments, but I see a third of them more often than this – over a longer period for long-term illness. People come to me with all sorts of problems but the most common are pain in the muscles and joints, and/or mental and emotional difficulties. Peoples’ problems have usually been present for over three months and 60% of patients had suffered them for many years.
So how do they get on? My detailed notes suggest that: – only 1 person got worse, – a quarter were unchanged; a quarter felt a bit or moderately better; half of my patients were either much better or their symptoms had disappeared.
There is no proof that this change is all due to acupuncture, but it gives a flavour of what to expect.
“People come to me with all sorts of problems”
The question I am most often asked is “what sort of things do you treat?” and the first thing I say is that I treat people, not just particular problems. My analysis confirmed that many people come with more than one health problem and that physical and emotional problems are often closely intertwined. In addition to painful problems with muscles and joints, people seek treatment for chronic respiratory problems, headaches/migraine, digestive and bowel problems, genito-urinary problems , fatigue, and a wide variety of symptoms that Western Medicine find difficult to categorise and to treat. Mental and emotional problems include anxiety, low mood, lack of motivation, and difficulties with sleep.
Chinese medicine does not view each of these problems as needing separate treatment – rather they all result from the Qi (energy/lifeforce) needing strengthening, balancing and helped to flow smoothly round the body. I begin by looking for a common root or basis to the problems and start my acupuncture treatment there. It is fine to be sceptical at the start but being open to a new way of understanding your illness may lead to opportunities for you to take a more active role in the treatment.
The analysis of my practice notes put numbers to some aspects of my everyday experience. Giving and receiving acupuncture is, however, much more than numbers can describe – good communication, a respectful relationship and a focus on each person as an individual are all a vital and enjoyable part of treatment.