Updated: Jul 8
It’s been sometime I share something about TCM. Though I been sharing on my IG, this is actually the first time i post a blog article on my website. This series maybe boring because there’s nothing much to do with food but I thought sharing my reflections would be useful to anyone of you here who is planning to see or is already seeing a Chinese physician. “When can I recover?” is the most common question I get as a physician because almost every single patient would ask. To be honest, we can only give you an estimation on general basis because recovery differs person to person and would depend on factors such as nature or severity of condition. For non-life-threatening acute conditions, it maybe within a week or 1-3 months to recover. For sub-acute conditions, it may take at least a week to few months. Chronic conditions usually take longer, at least months and up to years. And for some (in my opinion usually genetic, hereditary or degenerative), it maybe lifelong with treatment as a form of maintenance to delay the progression of disease.
Some factors that affect the rate of recovery are:
Nature of the illness or problem
Duration of the illness
Severity or complexity of the condition
Your body constitution
1. Nature of the illness or problem: This is one of the key factors that determine how long it would take for one to recover. Acute cases such as coughs, colds, flu, infections, strains or sprains can recover in a shorter span of time, usually within a month unless the condition is severe/complicated or patient body is weaker or non-compliant to our advice for recovery.
Often, people come into clinic for sub-acute or chronic conditions that range from headaches, migraine, allergic rhinitis, persistent or recurring cough, insomnia, digestive issues, aches and pain, skin problems, urinary issues, menstrual issues, reproductive problems, cardiac, stroke, including sub-health conditions. In such cases, it takes a longer time for treatment, usually months to years. For certain hereditary or degenerative issues that involves weakening of functions overtime e.g. ALS, Parkinson, dementia, treatment may not be able to reverse the condition but may help to improve quality of life or slow down progression disease. 2. Duration of the illness:
Generally, the longer the problem has been, a longer time is needed for recovery. A lot of patients would come in and say they had this problem for a long time. I would always ask for an exact period of time whether it meant weeks, ,months or years because ‘a long time’ is a subjective description! For some, ‘a long time’ meant weeks or months and for others, it meant years or even since they were young. Giving us a clearer timespan would help us to have a more realistic expectation on how long recovery would take. Usually, conditions that persist for a few months, I would give an estimation of 3-6 months for recovery (again, depending on nature of the problem first) and for those that occur for more than a year, my estimation is at least 6 months or even longer over years. 3. Severity or complexity of condition:
Similar to duration, the more severe or complex the condition is, the longer time we need for recovery. Often, people come with not just one health problem but multiple systemic issues that complicates treatment. For example a patient who come in with chronic backache, digestive and menstrual issues would need a longer time for treatment as compared to the one who just strained their back recently.
For people with multiple issues, we usually prioritise treatment according to what bothers the patient most, whichever requires immediate medical attention or is more severe clinically. The first three factors relates more on the health issue or disease itself while the next two factors have a lot more to do with patients. 4. Body constitution: When we talk about body constitution, it means the natural tendencies or susceptibilities of your body. It often determines the kind of illness or health issues that you tend to get because of the susceptibility. Our body constitution is often acquired from our parents (hereditary) and may change overtime due to diet, lifestyle or environmental factors. Generally, people with weaker constitutions would take longer time for recovery. Let say for example we compare two people who are down with the same type of flu, the one with weaker constitution often experiences more severe symptoms and takes a longer time to fight off the infection completely.
However, weaker constitutions are not the only reasons for slower recovery. Excess conditions such as Qi or Blood stagnation, Dampness or Phlgem can also slow recovery because these pathogenic factors can affect our body internally. For example someone with Damp-Phlgem constitution tends to recover slower from phlgemy cough. 5. Patient compliance: This is one of the tougher issues to tackle because it is beyond our control on how patients lead their lifestyles. As physicians, we try our best to give dietary and lifestyle advices that can help with recovery but often, it depends on whether the person is following our advice e.g. not eating spicy or deep-fried food, sleeping early, drinking more water. Sometimes, patients are unable to comply not because they don’t want to but because their situation doesn’t allow them to e.g. nature of their work. What I observed clinically, people who are discipline and determined to get well tend to be more careful with their diet and lifestyle and seem to recover faster than those who do not.
Hopefully this gives you a better idea on what to expect for recovery. As I said, this just a general guide and do not be discouraged even if recovery is longer than expected. Most importantly, learn to understand your body and manage your health through the recovery process so you become stronger and healthier out of it!