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A Costly Mistake (and how to avoid it) August 10, 2015

I remember my very first allergy attack. I was 11 years old and playing around with a potpourri ball in my bedroom, the kind that you stick in a dresser drawer to keep socks from smelling like….well, socks. I took a big whiff of that potpourri and then sneezed about 45 times in a row. It was silly, shocking and (dare I say) a little fun, so I sniffed it again. It wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had.

butterflyOver the course of the next year, I developed allergies that were annoying at best and debilitating at their worst. The irritation created by my uncontrollable sneezing and itching would often develop into sinus infections, so to add insult to injury, I was frequently sick.

Fourteen years later, I decided to do something about it. I sought out an acupuncturist in Washington DC, which is where I was living at the time. At her recommendation, I committed to weekly treatments and an herbal medicine regimen…I can’t remember for exactly how long, but it was somewhere between 4 and 6 months.

These days, I experience minor allergy symptoms a handful of times a year, and I rarely develop sinus infections. In fact, I’ve been relatively allergy-free for the last decade. When I think about how much money I spent on over-the-counter allergy medications (which I took daily), sinus infection medication (which I took multiple times/month), tissues (I could have single-handedly kept Kleenex in business), not to mention missed work time, the cost was pretty staggering. My investment into acupuncture and herbs for that brief period of time pales in comparison to a decade’s-worth of pharmacy supplies and missed work days.

So what’s the biggest, most costly health care mistake that you can make? Waiting.

Chinese medicine is fundamentally a preventative medicine. It excels at maintaining health and balance, and this can be a difficult concept for us as Westerners to wrap our heads around. It is in our nature to wait until a symptom is so aggravating or debilitating that we are rendered incapacitated. Not surprisingly, people often come to us as a “last resort” after having exhausted their western medicine options as well as their patience with their current state of health. And yes, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are still wonderfully effective at alleviating chronic symptoms while restoring balance in the body.

Here’s the truth though: if you wait, you may require more treatments over a longer period of time than you would if you had come in when the symptoms first began.

One of the most frequent questions that we get from new patients is, “how many treatments am I going to need to resolve this issue?” The truth is, we don’t know, although the general rule of thumb is one month’s-worth of weekly treatments for every year that you’ve been experiencing an issue.

This rule isn’t hard and fast though. It took me somewhere between 4-6 months to resolve an issue that had been going on for 14 years. I’d say I made out like a bandit. It’s not uncommon that we see people who have been suffering from symptoms for years and who experience profound and lasting changes after only one or two treatments. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve treated people who have experienced symptoms for a short period of time, and who don’t respond as quickly as we would hope or expect. Factors such as age, nutrition, lifestyle and other complicating health issues can all affect the course of treatment.

If you wait until a condition is so severe that you can no longer function normally in your daily life, you’re going to pay. The cost of prescription drugs, ER visits, surgeries, not to mention lost wages can far exceed the cost of preventative care in the form of acupuncture treatments, gym memberships, yoga classes, vacations, high-quality groceries (aka real food), CSA subscriptions, and other self-care efforts.

Someone once told me that if you truly want to know someone’s priorities in life, look at their calendar and their checkbook. So let me ask you this: where does your health rank among your list of priorities? Is it reflected in the time and money you spend on self-care every week?

roseTowards the end of last year, Jorge and I did a priorities audit and had a major reality check. Our two biggest priorities are health and family, but our schedule and our expenditures didn’t reflect that. We sat down with a calendar and dreamed up a new schedule that included lots of time for self-care, healthy meal preparation and family time. Sure, we had to make some sacrifices, and many of you will recall one of the major ones: we stopped working on Saturdays. At first, we stressed out about the loss of income, but you can’t put a price tag on quality time together as a family.

A wise man named Benjamin Franklin once said that, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. If Ben were alive today, I have a feeling he’d be one of our patients.

Bottom line: don’t wait. It’s not worth it. If it’s been awhile since your last acupuncture treatment, click the button below and schedule yourself an appointment. We’re happy to help you keep your priorities straight! More than that, we’re looking forward to seeing you again.

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*Thank you, Ali Owens, for letting me raid your Instagram account. The beautiful image of the butterfly in this post (a Gulf Fritillary if you’re interested) was taken by Ali in her backyard. The rose image, which is of the Abraham Darby variety, came from my backyard.

Maggie

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