Many years ago, Dan*, a man in his early thirties came to see me for elbow pain, or Tennis Elbow, except Dan was not a tennis player. He was, however, a carpenter in his spare time, and a series of projects he had been working on was making his elbow hurt. I learned from Dan that his current project involved a lot of twisting motion at his wrist from working with a screwdriver, which was really aggravating his elbow.
Dan came to me a couple of times; his elbow was improving, but he still had pain. During his last visit, I asked Dan a number of questions about his elbow and his carpentry, only to find that over the previous weekend he had spent over 15 hours in his workshop, primarily using a screwdriver!
During that time, I also saw Noreen, who was an ultra marathon runner. This means that she competed in distance races that were longer than 26 miles—typically 50 miles or longer.
Noreen was training for a 100-mile race, but was having foot pain that was making it difficult for her to run. The acupuncture I provided was helping her pain, but she felt compelled to do 30-40 mile training runs on the weekends to prepare for her race.
I was fairly confident that I could have helped both Dan and Noreen with acupuncture, as they were improving. But ultimately I was unable to completely relieve their pain because they weren’t willing to help themselves. Despite my urgings, neither Dan nor Noreen were willing to take a break from the activities that were causing their symptoms. The time Dan spent in his workshop and Noreen on the road was undoing any of the healing that was happening for them in my clinic.
Most of the patients I see are very motivated to feel better, and will do whatever it takes to improve their health. However, once in a while I get someone like Dan or Noreen, who are unwilling to take the responsibility for or change the behaviors that are causing their health problems and pain.
It’s important to be a willing partner in the healing process. Without that partnership and commitment to getting better, acupuncture, or any treatment for that matter, will not be successful.
*Names and identifying details have been changed.