One of the most frequent questions I hear is, “How long will it take for me to get better?” If you know me, one thing you know is, I’m not a liar. Probably to a fault, I am going to tell it just like it is, whether you like it or not. When asked this question, I never give a prognosis (a guess of how long treatment will take) until I see how someone did with acupuncture or functional medicine first. After I get a small sense of whether someone is a “high responder” or “low responder,” I give them a prognosis with a caveat; that they participate in their own health and do their honest best on their homework (I always give homework!). Most importantly, I tell people to track their symptoms. Now, not everyone wants to do all the heavy lifting in their own health. And truly, I’m okay with that because some people are so fatigued, they need someone to do it for them until they regain enough motivation to help themselves again. I sympathize with this. I’m here for what you need, not to dominate or scold you for how you live your own life.
My homework can be a complete over-haul, or at times, it’s as simple as my last request—tracking your symptoms. I base all assignments on objective findings such as blood tests and physical exam; I do not just give you mindless boundaries because that’s what I think you need. I do it because I know you need it. I’m also, as stated before, a realist. I think to myself—is this something I would be able to accomplish? If I think my homework requests are within your reasonable abilities, I’ll give you the challenge. If it’s something that is so restricting and impossible to do with a normal schedule and life— we figure out an alternative. There are those people, don’t get me wrong, whom I do ask a lot of, and that is because the situation is desperate enough to call for it.
The final and most important part of my prognosis calculation is the tracking of your symptoms. Let’s say you failed at all the above listed, including to accurately track your symptoms—how would you expect me to be able to do my job to the best of my abilities with no information to go on? It’s an uncomfortable space for me. When administered too strong, medical acupuncture can make someone feel sick and increase their symptoms temporarily. Giving you the sledgehammer is harmless, but can be frustrating if you’re already in pain. The thing I like least about this scenario is that it gives you, the patient, free rein to blame this on me. I will tell you, I don’t like this. Have you ever met any healthcare provider who honestly wants to make someone suffer more? While some of us can be harsh, quick-tempered, hurried or just plain burned-out—we all, regardless of what you think, got into our specific healthcare disciplines to help people. Blaming us helps you none. That’s the honest truth.
As a patient, if you really want to get better, the most important thing you can do, at the very minimum, is to keep track of your symptoms. It’s never too much to ask. I provide people with a sheet they can bring back and all they have to do is fill in a number or short sentence once daily. Even a sticky note or phone note will do. I, for one, am not a magician—maybe some other practitioners out there claim to be. By tracking how you do with treatments, I can give you an appropriate treatment based on your response, which helps avert side effects and gets you better as soon as possible. If you start tracking your symptoms, I guarantee that you will be surprised by your findings. This is why I love science! Your subjective, emotional idea of what is occurring in your life many times is not what is actually happening. Track your food intake, track your workouts, track your miles, track the number of times you have your main symptom, and you will be shocked at how different the objective findings are from your subjective guess.
When dealing with chronic patients (patients who have been dealing with a health condition lasting for years), I always warn them about the 90 percent period, where you are so diligent about getting better. You do everything right—then you get 90 percent better and you start to slack off. And you stay at 90 percent for what seems like forever. Not only physically dealing with your condition is a marathon, but emotionally, it’s almost worse. I suggest: Track how you feel now. On a scale of 1-5, a happy face or sad face, or a time table of listed symptoms—whatever you choose. Track it now; then when you get to your 90 percent, you can look back and say,“Wow. I only had a good day three times per month, six months ago. Now I only have a bad day twice per month.” That alone can lift your spirits. I know, because I have been there. So remember, even in the times you can’t help yourself, you can at least help someone else help you.
There are so many easy templates, free apps, programs, books and sticky notes available at your service! Taking 10 minutes per day to mindfully track what happened during your day will help you make better choices, feel more empowered and help your team of practitioners and doctors get you better! Feel free to check out some simple tracking tools on my website for free download under the“Info” and “Documents for 1st treatment” tab.
"Without data, you’re just another person withan opinion." —W. Edwards Deming
Dr. Christina Fick (DAOM)
" At Evergreen Medical Acupuncture we use functional medicine and western diagnostics to treat almost any condition with an anatomy-based acupuncture system. We are Colorado's premier acupuncture clinic."