“You’re going to stick those where?”

By AFEA member Jennifer Riches

It is almost a certainty that at some point in our careers a patient will come for treatment for a sports related injury.
The challenge for a Five Element acupuncturist (particularly students and the very newly qualified – take it from me!) is gaining the confidence and trust of the patient when you are just not going to needle the location of pain (no, I’m really not). This is not to be obtuse; for a Five Element practitioner it is the best course of treatment for our patients, particularly if they have already had acupuncture directly applied to the location and have not had a long-term positive outcome. Staying true to Five Element roots is the best and most successful way of creating long term relief and healing for our patients.
An example from my practice is a patient who I treated in my final year of training. Px had come for treatment for muscular pain and tension in the gastrocnemius, plus what he suspected to be Achilles tendinopathy, caused by over exertion from a punishing training regime. He had a history of severe childhood asthma (medicated with corticosteroids) and also displayed symptoms of Blood Xu, most significantly noted on his tongue and pulse picture. Px also had a difficult estranged relationship with both parents exhibiting a degree of detachment in relation to the situation; discarding what was of no enrichment or positive emotional value. He had been given acupuncture for his condition by a physiotherapist with some temporary success but nothing that sustained his recovery.
Through CSOE diagnosis I concluded that the patient was a Metal CF. If he had been a Water, Wood or Earth CF it would have been easier for the patient to justify the points used in treatment. I knew it would be misnomer for him when I started inserting needles into his arm instead and honestly, I was nervous. I wondered if I would meet resistance with regards to constitutional treatment and if this would hinder the treatment outcomes. Would I need to treat directly alongside CF treatment in order to gain trust? However, even in my naivety, I knew I could not be apologetic in my approach. Happily an explanation about treatment aims procedures placated my lovely patient. This made it easier to stay connected to the roots of our tradition and used pure, elegant, Five Element treatment protocols:

Tx1: AE, Ki24, Ht7
Tx2: LI4, Lu9 – source points
Tx3: LI6, Lu7 – junction points
Tx4 LI6, Lu7, Li4, Lu9 – accumulation and source points
Tx5: leg cupping, Bl43, LI4, Lu9 – restorative treatment plus sources.

Interestingly, the Blood Xu symptoms decreased significantly from Tx3-Tx4 allowing Px to increase training levels.
However, the real turning point was between Tx4 and Tx5.
Struggling to run more than 6 miles in the few months before starting treatment, Px was used to gruelling marathons and 24hr race events. He was signed up for the Manchester Marathon and determined to compete despite the on-going pain. I was concerned that he would barely make it halfway round, considering a few weeks ago he had hobbled over the line of a 10K.
When he returned for Tx5, not only had he completed the marathon, he had completed it close to his personal best time! Even after the marathon his pain scores had come down to a 2/6 (6 being the worst it can be). The experience became a ‘lightbulb’ moment in my training. It taught me the power of treating the CF.
Now he has stopped running in order to recover, although he intends to restart training from the very beginning ensuring his technique is conducive to maximum output and minimum injury risk. In this way I feel that not only has he benefited physically from treatment, but he is also making better, healthier choices showing a greater degree of emotional development.
Constitutional specific points combined with groundwork protocol treatments, balancing the body and allowing it to power itself back to health, is the cornerstone of the work we do. Other options may work well in the short term but nourishing the CF and keeping true to the tradition of Five Element acupuncture will ultimately strengthen the patient – in the now and beyond.

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