Honest Feedback Doesn't Hurt

It Doesn't Hurt

I'm always trying to do right by my patients. It takes a ton of initiative and courage for someone to come to me for treatment. They don't know me. They can only hope that they have made an intuitive choice in choosing me as their acupuncturist. They want me to help them feel better.

Imagine my surprise when a colleague shared this pearl with me last week. "Your patients are wanting you to like them as much as you want them to like you." All these years I thought the Pleasing Boulevard only went one way.

People ask me all the time if acupuncture hurts. "Do the needles hurt?" they ask with trepidation. These folks desperately want me to say no. Every needle they've encountered has hurt them. How could something that hurts be therapeutic? And who in their right mind would choose to have more than one needle go into their body at a time?

I always take a breath, pause, and smile before I answer them. "Acupuncture doesn't hurt. Some people consider the sensation as something they haven't experienced before. For this reason, the newness can make them uncomfortable. If there is discomfort, it lasts a brief moment. It really depends on what people consider as pain."

In my 19 years of practice I've learned that people's emotional pain is directly proportional to the amount of education they have on acupuncture. The more they know about what to expect, the more comfortable they are with the treatment.

I had a reminder last week about this very topic. In my enthusiasm to help this patient, I forgot to explain to her what cupping was and what to expect. She trusted me completely. I had inadvertently neglected to educate her on the procedure of cupping so she could make an informed decision, I went ahead and cupped her shoulder. She was a really good sport about my cupping her. However, later that evening she began to feel "betrayed" by me. I'm lucky that I have a really good working relationship with her. The next time she came to see me, we talked about what I could've done differently to help her feel better. Lesson learned.

It's not going to hurt my feelings if a patient tells me they don't like the treatment. I believe patients have complete control of the time they are in my office. If they aren't comfortable with something, I want them to tell me so. I can help them best when they provide all the information available.