Usually when I treat a patient for a particular health concern, the individual comes for a series of treatments. We may begin with twice-a-week treatments initially, and as the signs and symptoms decrease in severity, we gradually taper off until the issues are entirely resolved. I also recommend that the patient stop in for a maintenance treatment every so often; just as you would take your car in for a tune-up, it is a good idea to ensure the body maintains optimal health.
Sometimes, however, the treatment doesn’t go according to schedule. In one particular instance last year, I treated a patient for shoulder pain and plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis occurs when there is inflammation in the connective tissue in the plantar fascia, which is between the heel of the foot and the toes. It usually causes severe pain in the heel and arch of the foot, which may be aggravated with walking. This patient began having some improvement, but as plantar fasciitis is especially stubborn, I explained she would require treatments over a span of a few weeks. The patient was planning a family party at the time and had to cancel her third visit. I tried following up with the patient a couple of times to see if she wanted to reschedule. When I did not hear back, I simply let it go. I occasionally wondered how she was doing and if she had any positive results from the treatment.
Recently, I received a text late one evening from the mystery patient whose outcome from a year prior was unknown. She said her son was suffering from excruciating sciatic back pain. She said he would call shortly, and asked me to fit him in as soon as possible. He had already had numerous steroid injections for the pain, and wanted to avoid having an epidural and spinal surgery at all costs. Basically, I was his last attempt before conceding to have the surgery. I have had calls like this before. All too often, people–physicians included–tend to think of acupuncture as a last resort. When all else has failed, what do you have to lose?
The interesting thing about this particular late-night, stressed-out call was that the gentleman mentioned that his mom had referred him quite some time before, but he didn’t believe in acupuncture, and thus hadn’t reached out to me sooner. He said his mom swore I helped her so much with both her shoulder and plantar fasciitis that she felt he had nothing to lose. Needless to say, I was thrilled to learn that my patient had such remarkable improvement. I was determined to treat her son as well.
He came in to my office a complete skeptic, honest and up-front with his convictions. Because of the severity of his pain, I did not want him to wait too long to come in and therefore squeezed him in on my day off. During his treatment I explained that he didn’t need to be a believer for it to work.
I have a policy that I call new patients the day after their first treatment to inquire if they have had improvement, and, most importantly, to let them know I can easily be reached with any questions or concerns. When I phoned late Saturday night, the patient was enthusiastic to speak with me. He said, “I don’t know what you did, but I have 70% improvement; I don’t get it but I’m in!” As he walked in to his next appointment on Monday he was excited to tell me that he had 80% improvement and it was ongoing. He couldn’t believe he had waited so long and hadn’t listened to his mother sooner. I have seen him a few times since and he is living pain-free!
I would be remiss not to mention that after the amazing speedy results, I am currently treating three additional patients from the same family. I hope they continue to have such amazing progress as well.
We don’t always know the outcome of various events in life, how they will play out, and what is in store for us in the long term. However, sometimes the unknown can be superior to what we envision. Sometimes events really do come full circle. In this scenario, my original patient had tremendous success with her treatment. I just didn’t know about it, and that’s OK. It’s not about me; it’s about the patients and their healing journey, on which I am happy to accompany them.