Talking to patients about what it takes to ‘fix’ things using acupuncture and Chinese medicine is always an interesting experience. Most people realise that their problems didn’t develop overnight and that they will likely take some time and effort to ‘fix’. Some people, however, come to the clinic thinking that years of misuse and abuse or significant illness and injury can be fixed in a single visit. I’m not sure how people come to thinking about acupuncture and Chinese medicine like this. Perhaps Kung Fu Panda or the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique that eventually killed Bill has something to do with it? Either way, it seems that at the core of this thinking is a fundamental misunderstanding of human physiology and the processes involved in repairing dysfunction, illness and injury. I have been studying and practicing this medicine since 1995; I have been teaching it, in various capacities, for the last 15 years. Over this time, it has become my mission to debunk the miracle/mystical reputation of acupuncture and Chinese medicine and provide people with a better understanding of what these medical traditions really are and what it takes to get better using them.
What does it take to get better using Acupuncture and Chinese medicine?
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are proving themselves to be very effective interventions . As compelling as the evidence is regarding the effectiveness of these interventions, the inconvenient fact of the matter is, whether you are trying to fix functional problems, illness or injury, the body needs time to recover. If you combine time with the appropriate stimulation, you can optimise human physiology and bring about the fastest, most efficient recovery possible. When using acupuncture and Chinese medicine to optimise recovery, it is most important that the optimum dose (i.e., the number and frequency of treatment) is applied. Unfortunately, patients in Australia frequently underestimate dose when it comes to acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
So, what is the optimum dose?
The fact of the matter is that there has been very little research into optimum dose when using acupuncture and Chinese medicine. At this point in time, clinicians rely heavily on the 1000’s of years of empirical knowledge available in the field, as well as their own clinical observations. The answer I give to the question of optimum dose is that it changes from person to person and from condition to condition. This sounds a bit like a cope out but there are just so many variables when it comes to determining optimum dose that I feel it must be true. I introduce some of these variables here. For now, let’s talk about something that the research literature is becoming quite clear about, the idea of the minimum dose required to get significant and lasting change when using acupuncture. MacDonald et al (2013) reviewed the literature on the treatment of allergic rhinitis and discovered that the minimum dose required to get statistically significant and lasting reduction in symptoms using acupuncture was 10 treatments, conducted twice weekly for a period of 5 weeks. You can check out lead researcher John MacDonald talking about this research here (at 13.32 mins).
Most patients are a little surprised by the number and frequency of treatment suggested by the research for AR. Though we cannot assume from this research that the minimum dose for all medical conditions is 2 sessions per week for 5 weeks. However, based on empirical knowledge, we see that when treatment is applied frequently enough and for long enough that very good clinical outcomes are possible. I think that the key take-away from MacDonald et al’s research is that too few consulations, spread too far apart, is not effective when using acupuncture. It would be akin to going to the Drs for a course of antibiotics, only to take a couple of pills and still hoping to overcome your infection!
Please feel free to discuss what the optimum dose of acupuncture is for you when you next visit AAC.
If you would like to find out more about ‘fixin it’ with acupuncture and Chinese medicine, please contact the clinic on 03 5298 1213. Alternatively, you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or pop in to Shop 3 / 153 Shannon Ave, Manifold Heights, VIC 3218 for a chat.
Thanks for reading,
MPET; B. A. (Hons); B. H. Sc. (Acu); Ad. Dip. App. Sc. (Acu);
Dip. Rem. Mass.; Dip. Rem. Therap;
Member AACMA 1332; Registered Acupuncturist (AHPRA)
John L. McDonald, Allan W. Cripps, Peter K. Smith, Caroline A. Smith, Charlie C. Xue, and Brenda Golianu, â€œThe Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Acupuncture and Their Relevance to Allergic Rhinitis: A Narrative Review and Proposed Model, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, Article ID 591796, 12 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/591796
Paul McLeod is a AHPRA registered acupuncturist in Geelong, Victoria, offering drug-free management of a wide variety of medical conditions. Paul has been studying and practicing acupuncture and Chinese medicine for more than 22 years and has a wealth of experience treating many forms of pain, including muscular-skeletal pain, nerve pain, digestive pain and gynaecological pain. Paul is a very experienced teacher with a passion for sharing his knowledge of Chinese medicine with the community.