“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.

A Healthy Body is One You Don’t Have to Think About

There have been a number of times that I’ve treated someone for a particular pain, and when they next come in they mention a different pain. “How’s the shoulder/knee/etc pain you came in for last time?” “Oh!” they’ll often say, “I forgot all about that!” It always makes me happy that folks can so thoroughly forget about pain they were in before; I had the same experience over the holidays.

I bought some new running shoes a few weeks ago, and after I took them out for the first time, I had a really jarring pain in kind of an odd place. At first I thought there was something in the shoe digging into the underside of my big toe, but the pain was still there when I walked around barefoot afterwards. I pressed into the bone and the tendon, and the pain didn’t show up there at all; there were no cuts or calluses on my big toe either. I limped around in pain for a day before I remembered that I’m an acupuncturist, and there’s something I could do about it!

When I had 15 minutes to spare, I swabbed the area with an alcohol wipe, popped in a few needles along the extent of the painful area, and used an e-stim machine to pass some electrical current along the bottom of the toe.

I had some things to take care of afterwards, so I promptly forgot about what previously I’d had to think about with every step.

It wasn’t till a few days later that I remembered, “Hey, what ever happened to that stabbing pain in my toe?” It’s been a few weeks and plenty more runs and it still hasn’t reared its head again.
Pain and health are funny things in that regard. Being healthy, for most of us, simply means that our bodies don’t insist themselves upon our attention when we’re trying to do other things. The luxury of health is that it allows us to put our attention where we want. Of course, it’s impossible to go through one’s life completely oblivious to the creaks and groans (and sometimes earthquakes) that our bodies are subject to. I’m just glad that there are options.

Hiking injury in New Mexico and the acupuncture remedy

We have returned from yet another vacation in New Mexico. Those of you who know me are well aware of my connection and love for that part of the country. My husband, Herman and I are lucky and blessed to be able to travel there once or twice a year. Usually we plant ourselves in and around Santa Fe, but this time we explored the southwest part of the state. We spent time in Albuquerque, Truth or Consequences and Silver City, NM.

Herman on the trail

While hiking above Silver City at the Bear Mountain Lodge, Herman pulled a muscle in his calf and was experiencing pain, decreased mobility, and muscle stiffness. He feels that this sports injury occurred due to the lack of pre-stretching, cool weather and that we were hiking at high altitude. Lucky for him, I came prepared: acupuncture needles, essential oils and arnica gel at hand. After one treatment he was experiencing 90% less pain and then a few days later he had another treatment and was virtually back to normal.

Anna on the trail.

Enjoy your day, Anna