The most common idea people have about acupuncture is using it for pain relief. In my 39 years practicing Oriental Medicine, I’d have to agree that it can be very effective for that. But sometimes the results surprise even me.
Most recently, I had a new patient come in for relief of pain caused by Morton’s neuromas. These are growths and swelling around nerves in the feet. They can be quite painful, particularly when walking a lot.
This patient had been in pain with these neuromas for 20 years. In addition, his job required constant walking. Someone he knew had recommended acupuncture since nothing else had helped in all that time.
As always, I did a complete intake, asking him about his health history, doing a physical exam, etc. After all that we quickly got to the treatment.
If you counted all the possible points in the body to treat, you’d find there are 2,000 acupuncture points. That can make determining the right points to treat challenging. Fortunately, over the past several thousand years, much practical knowledge has been handed down by experienced acupuncture doctors.
In this case, I started by pressing on points with my thumb and asking him if he noticed any relief from the pain. You might be surprised to know that I started by pressing points in his hands. This approach is based on the idea that areas of the body can be used to treat similar areas (hands and feet have many similarities). He reported noticeable relief from pressing these hand points.
Because of his response, I focused the treatment around these points. When the treatment was finished, he stood up and was quite surprised to find there was no pain in his feet.
This is a great response to a treatment, however it’s always better to confirm that we’ve made progress by giving the treatment a few days to work through the body. So I sent him home with instructions to notice how things went over the course of the next few days.
Three days later we met again. He’d had no pain during those three days, in spite of two shifts of walking at work and playing golf! It was very encouraging.
We scheduled the next treatment for the following week. Sometimes giving more time between treatments will uncover hidden biorhythms in which the problem returns. But in his case this didn’t happen. He had another week without pain, even though he did all his usual activities. In fact, he started jogging again, something he’d been unable to do because of his foot pain.
Now, a month after his initial treatment, he is still without pain. What’s remarkable about this case is that the pain vanished after only one treatment and hasn’t returned at all.
Each person is different, and each person will have a different response to acupuncture. In addition, there are situations in which no amount of acupuncture will make a difference. Still, as this case demonstrates, for many conditions acupuncture can be an outstanding, non-drug treatment for getting lasting relief.