My favorite question on my new-patient forms is “How confident are you that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine will be able to resolve the symptoms of your main complaint?”
I could write a book on some of the incredible responses I have received over the years. It would surely be a top seller in the comedy section!
I appreciate the honesty in the responses. Here are some of the typical ones I receive:
“I don’t believe in this at all, but my wife is forcing me to be here. She says she can’t take hearing me complain anymore.”
“Well, I have tried everything else, nothing has worked, and I am desperate, so as a last resort before surgery I guess I have nothing to lose.”
“I was really curious to see how an Orthodox woman landed in this type of career, so I just had to see it for myself.”
I approach all of my patients the same way. This includes the skeptics as well as the believers in acupuncture who have already experienced the amazing benefits firsthand. I look at every case as a chance to help the individual in their healing path. I look for the nuances and clues their body is giving me so I may guide them through their sometimes mysterious symptoms so they can finally have some relief and enjoy their daily lives. I truly want to see all of my patients enjoy complete health and serenity with peace of mind. I want it to carry over into their family lives, at work, and even within their athletic goals.
I am pretty sure my patients know this about me. The words of thanks I get from a patient who has found peace after a prolonged bout with chronic depression, or from the patient who was able to avoid surgery, is gratitude enough. I am truly grateful each day for such a rewarding career. It allows me to go to sleep at night knowing I have done my best to help my patients lead an enriched pain-free life, which they truly deserve.
By far the most interesting and challenging response I have received on my intake forms was from a patient who came into the office about a year ago. It wasn’t about his symptoms so much as how he came to my office. I primarily build my practice by word of mouth from patients who have had success. However, in this case it was quite different. He plainly stated that he believed acupuncture was complete voodoo. I was not taken aback at all, as I hear this all the time. I have no problem when people refer to me as their voodoo doctor–so long as they are feeling relief!
In this case, however, the gentleman explained that the only reason he was willing to even come to my office was because his best friend, who was terminally ill and dying, said that I had helped him so much with his symptoms and quality of life, and he would no longer speak to this new patient of mine if he didn’t at least give acupuncture a try! Knowing both of these individuals a little better now, I can only imagine how the conversation went down. Apparently this friend meant business–he would not speak to the fellow until he made his first appointment.
So, with him sitting across from me after being forced to come to my office, we discussed the treatment. He said, “Of course it only works if you believe in it, as I am sure it’s all in the mind.” I told him that he actually doesn’t need to believe in it for it to work. It will help him relax and enjoy his treatment more, but the results should be the same. We began to get past the elephant in the room of his clearly not wanting to be there, which was expressed in his words as well as his body language. He had his arms crossed over his chest and was sitting as far back as he could possibly go.
We began discussing his medical concerns. He had numbness and tingling in his left foot to the point that he had lost complete sensation from the toes through and above the ankle. It was so intense that his balance was recently affected. Along with lightheadedness, he also had some numbness in the left thigh. In my thorough initial intake, which he was anxious to get through quickly, I learned that he’d had open-heart surgery 16 years prior. I also learned that he had been to a multitude of neurologists, cardiologists, and pulmonologists. All tried numerous medications but were unable to do anything for his neuropathy. I don’t find fault and often work hand-in-hand with primary-care physicians and specialists. But in this case, I feel they simply lost the big picture, as medicine today breaks us up into parts.
When I finished reviewing his complete medical history, I went on to take his pulse and observe his tongue. This is something I do in every treatment, as it gives me a window into the person’s health–the tongue is a microcosm of the whole body. When I took his pulse on both wrists simultaneously, I immediately questioned him about the diminished pulse on his left wrist.
He said, “What are you talking about?” I replied, “Of the slew of doctors you’ve seen, apparently none mentioned your almost-absent pulse on your left side.”
He said, “Well, clearly no one ever took my pulse like you are”–as if to say that I was doing it wrong.
Let me stop here and explain that it is almost never this easy. This particular case pointed to the root cause of the symptoms. There was blood stagnation in the heart meridian on the left side, which was not allowing proper circulation to the left periphery and left side of the body, causing the neuropathy as well as the lightheadedness.
Most often, people come to me with numerous complaints, and I have to really think hard to connect the dots to determine the proper course of treatment. In this case it all pointed to the same issue. I said as much to the patient, as I began to insert a few needles. My recommendation was to come in twice a week for a few weeks, since acupuncture builds on itself. Before running from my office, he agreed to come back later that week.
When he returned, he said the numbness in the left thigh was gone, and the numbness in the left foot was now isolated to the toes themselves and only slightly on the dorsum of the foot as well. It no longer reached above the ankle. He then added that it was clearly a coincidence, as he doesn’t believe in acupuncture at all. I said, “No problem, I understand; I am happy that you came back to continue with the treatment.”
He returned the next week as well. His arms were no longer crossed and he looked at me kind of funny. He said, “I have no idea what you are doing, but keep doing it.” And that’s what I did. It took a total of four treatments. The neuropathy he had suffered for 16 years in the left foot, toes to ankle, was completely gone; the neuropathy and tingling in the left thigh was gone; and the balance issues were resolved. The problem has not returned. Immediately after, the patient referred his wife to me, as he is now a believer.
I am sorry it took something as profound as an ill friend forcing him to try acupuncture. However, I am thrilled that after suffering for 16 years he has relief. You don’t have to be a believer; try it and see the wonderful benefits of acupuncture and holistic healing for yourself!
And please be honest on your intake forms when I ask how confident you are–it gives me great material for my future bestseller!