by David Derdiger, L.Ac.
Musculoskeletal pain is one of the most common reasons people seek out acupuncture, and it is the dominant reason people seek out physical medicine modalities such as chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage therapy, and naprapathy. Assuming a patient’s condition is a right fit for their chosen modality, both acupuncture and physical medicine excel at helping patients find resolutions to their pain. However, from time to time, there are patients who experience minor improvement with one modality and then they start to plateau, or worse, regress.
When I worked in the same space as a chiropractor with an on-staff rehab specialist, we each experienced cases that started with a patient in either physical medicine or acupuncture, and having plateaued, ultimately became a co-treated patient of both. The vast majority of the time, when we were able to combine our modalities in coordinated care, such patients’ bodies would have the right kind of support to finally heal in the way the patient desired.
In acupuncture, the frequency of treatment and timeline for expected results depends on the severity and chronicity of the symptom. Acute conditions are often treated twice a week for a couple weeks before reassessing, whereas a chronic condition might be one or two treatments per week for up to eight weeks before an accurate assessment can be made regarding the treatment’s efficacy. If a patient is plateauing, sometimes the issue is insufficient frequency of care. However, if the frequency is already two, or even three times per week, and the patient isn’t progressing, I will often encourage the patient to seek assessment and care from an appropriate physical medicine professional.
The path to healing is often non-linear and requires a holistic approach. Bodies are complex, people’s lives are complex, and sometimes the nature of a patient’s pain is complex, even if the symptom seems straightforward or simple.
While acupuncture and physical medicine both offer tremendous benefit to those seeking help with acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain, sometimes a single modality just isn’t enough. In these circumstances, embracing the synergy of multiple complementary angles can provide the support necessary for a patient to attain the healing they desire. As medical professionals our ultimate goal remains the same: to help our patients move into a pain-free and joy-filled life.
David Derdiger, L.Ac.
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