“How often do I need to come back?”

When I’m discussing whether acupuncture will be helpful for a given person’s condition, they often ask me, “OK, so if the treatments are helpful, will I need to come in just once, or every week for the rest of my life, or what?” My answer varies depending on the issue, of course. But even for conditions that frequently respond well to acupuncture treatment, I can’t predict what their case will look like.

So when our very own Anna proposed that I share the story of her treatments for pain in her heels, I thought it sounded like a good chance to explain just what a course of treatment can look like.

(I do want to make explicit that I am sharing this with Anna’s permission; we here at Blue Lotus value client privacy to the utmost and observe all protections to keep your health information private and secure.)

Anna started having pain in her feet in August 2015. Characteristic to plantar fasciitis, her pain was worst in the morning when she first got out of bed and in the evening after being on her feet all day. Changing her shoes to ones more friendly to the bottom of her feet helped, but the pain along her ankle and under her heel remained. In March, she decided to start weekly acupuncture sessions to see if we could get the pain to budge. Of course, as an acupuncturist, she could treat herself, but it’s not too easy to reach those areas on your own feet!

I took a three-pronged approach in Anna’s treatments: treating the back of her calf to release the tension pulling on her heels; using mild electrical stimulation on her heels; and adding in points elsewhere around her body to decrease the perception of pain. plantartx

The first treatment yielded only a slight change after the treatment: for about 2 days they felt better before reverting to their old level of pain.

The second treatment took place six days later, and it brought a more substantive change. Her feet were sore shortly after the treatment, but after work, she was surprised to find she wasn’t hobbling in pain like she normally is. Though the pain that arose was in the same locations as before, they were consistently 25% less painful than before.

After her third treatment five days later, she had several days where there was no pain at all. Getting out of bed was much less painful.

It was sixteen days before Anna was able to get another treatment, and her feet felt sore the day after the treatment. There was no pain by the time of her next treatment a week later, and once again the pain didn’t arise, so we took a wait-and-see approach to see if the pain returned and she needed further treatment. So, five treatments in about as many weeks sufficed to get Anna significant relief from her foot pain.

It is worth noting that I treated Anna once in August and once in November for her foot pain, but neither had lasting effects. It was only when she had a few treatments in a row that the benefits began to accumulate. It’s likely that she’ll need a tune-up after hikes and activities that are heavy on her feet, but with stretching and other self-care techniques we discussed, she should be able to be pain-free.

I do need to reinforce that everyone’s course of healing is different, and what one person needs to help their condition may be very different from someone else. Anna’s story characterizes just one way that a course of healing can occur. It is my goal always, however, to provide the maximum benefit that I can in as few treatments as possible.

The advice offered in this article is intended for informational purposes only.  Use of this column is not intended to replace or substitute for medical, psychological, or professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. This article, its author, and its publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation.