Q: I am currently in a significant amount of pain in my back, shoulders and neck due to arthritis. I was going to book an appointment for a session of acupuncture today but don't think I would be able to bear it at the moment. Is it best to wait for the flare up to subside slightly before trying acupuncture or be brave and do it whilst in this amount of discomfort?
A: This is quite a difficult question to answer. We would probably say that if you think you couldn't bear the treatment at the moment, the best course of action is to wait until you feel that you can. There is a very strong feeling in many patients that letting the practitioner see things at their worse is a good thing, and they struggle into clinics when they are feeling very unwell. This expert tends to take the view that if getting to treatment becomes an ordeal on top of the pains which are already bad, it is not a sensible thing to do.
There is, of course, the counter-argument that the treatment may well be of immediate benefit in reducing the pain. Our experience, however, is that with long term conditions like this such changes are short-lived, and it is far better to wait until the pain has become more manageable so that the whole experience is a pleasant and upward moving one.
There is no doubt that from our experience when the pain of arthritis is very severe any kind of intervention can become immensely painful in itself. Oddly enough, the one thing which always seems to be helpful in these sorts of situations is reflexology. It has been a common experience in those patients with severe arthritis, especially those of mature years, that they report that as a short term palliative this treatment works very well. For the long term, however, Chinese medicine has an increasingly impressive track record of helping people with arthritic pains, and a growing body of research to underpin it.