If a treatment doesn’t work, quit.

DVinci_Symbol.jpgHere’s my unpopular opinion: Go ahead and expect fast results from the CAM treatment you’re trying.

Don’t fall for the pitch “this isn’t surgery… it takes time for your system to change”.

While the argument is true, the implication can cost you thousands of dollars without any benefit to your health.

I’ve seen it too often: new clients tell me about the doctors/practitioners they paid, faithfully, for several treatments per week, for a whole year, without any improvement of their problem!                               
The “change of their system” never happened. And some of them are downright broke when they get to me… and they schedule a free consultation because a friend told them “she’s not going to salespitch you–she really wants to help. You can tell her you can’t afford any treatment, and she will at least show you a few exercises.”

Now… I don’t work miracles. I have clients who’ve been seeing me for years, because some problems take years to be resolved. And others can never be healed–but they benefit from good maintenance. Important for me is that my clients see clearly defined results, as in “last week I was climbing the stairs in my daughters house, and I didn’t even have to hold onto the railing, and I didn’t have any of the pain that I used to”.

If I don’t see results like that, I refer to someone else. Fortunately I have some really great therapists around.

Let’s take acupuncture as an example (just because that’s what I used to work with). I’ve told you to be careful with cheap acupuncture. But hey, you can also get expensive acupuncture with no results–and an authority figure telling you that you are too impatient, that holistic medicine is no magic pill, and that you should get another 10 treatments.

The truth is, you should feel a change. If not after a first, then after a second treatment. When you’re there for the third one, and Dr. Needle proceeds to use the same points that didn’t give you ANY result before, don’t schedule  another appointment. Wait a courteous few days, just for the benefit of the doubt, and if you still don’t feel that ANYTHING is different, find somebody else.

If nothing changed, the treatment didn’t do anything. It happens. Every person responds differently. Why the practitioner would do THE EXACT SAME treatment is only explicable by ignorance or laziness. Or the kind of arrogance that says “Oh yes, there were changes. The patient is just too unaware to feel them.”

What kind of change should you look for? Admittedly, they can be subtle.

- do you sleep better?  - do you have more energy? – did you feel relaxed for the rest of the day? – did your mood improve? -

- Did your pain (or whatever symptom you came in for) ease off? Even if it’s just a little, and even if you just felt great for a few hours, this is a good sign that with further treatments the change will be more stable.

It is true that healing takes time. But the first steps should include some kind of sign that you’re on the right track. Some silver lining.

Bottom line: If nothing changes at all, discuss it with your practitioner. Ask them what changes you should be looking for. Write down how you feel every day so you can give clear feedback.

If they aren’t interested in talking to you, get the hell out of there.

What is your experience? Do you feel like you got ripped off? Or do you have a story that proves me wrong? Please comment! I’m always happy to learn.

3 thoughts on “If a treatment doesn’t work, quit.

  1. Pingback: Tools for Massage Therapists « lumuellerkaul

  2. Disclaimer: I work at Balance Orlando.

    Lu, my protocol for a lot of things is to 1.) ask if they have seen a doctor or had an MRI to rule out anything super serious. Many times they have and I am a second or third resort after they have tried a doctor or PT. (I once had a bone tumor myself and only could find out via xray. All the massaging in the world wasn’t going to help the leg pain I had. I have also seen a patient presenting in the hospital with what felt like a “pulled muscle,” only to discover he was chock full of blood clots, even in the lungs. But, after the really bad stuff is ruled out, I often tell people to give me four sessions possibly over as short of a time as two weeks — seeing them twice a week for two weeks. If after that time they don’t see a very noticeable, if not significant improvement in their pain or range of motion — then what I am doing is just not working. A LOT of people are going to see improvement after one session. After those four sessions, many are “cured.” This is why I get irritated that massage therapy is not the first choice instead of the third or fourth choice for more people. I will say, my “four session,” encouragement does NOT hold true for those many people who come for maintenance, stress management, routine tension, etc., which is chronic in our culture. Those people can keep coming. I personally get some form of massage 1-2x per week and utterly LOVE that and think it helps me on so many levels that I can’t imagine not getting it. I am talking about people who present with a real problem shoulder or tingling in their arms, etc. and want it fixed. I may be able to help in one session, but give me four and I will call it quits if you aren’t better.

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