Imagine you are working at your desk and suddenly one of the fluorescent lights overhead starts buzzing. You take notice of it since it is a new stimulus, but don’t think much of it. The longer it persists, however, the more annoying it becomes. But, eventually you are able to ignore it and continue with your work, until finally you don’t even realize that the buzzing noise still continues. Later that night you walk into a movie theater and are met by the overwhelming smell of fresh popped corn. After some time in the theater, the smell of the corn becomes virtually unnoticeable.

So what changed in the examples above? Did the light stop buzzing? Did the aroma coming from the popcorn machine diminish? Or did your body simply adapt to the situation? The answer, of course, is that you adapted to the external stimuli. The body is designed to do so in order to avoid sensory overload.

Adaptation is a good thing when you are dealing with a trivial nuisance that should not garner an inordinate amount of your focus, but what about when you are dealing with more important stimuli pertaining to your health? More specifically, is it a good thing or a bad thing when you adapt to a stimulus if that trigger happens to be a bodily symptom? That depends in part on the nature of the symptom, but in general it is not a good thing to simply ignore your body’s signals until they eventually fade into the background.

Headaches that are initially unbearable, or at least a persistent annoyance, can eventually go virtually unnoticed as you learn to adapt to the pain. It is not uncommon to hear people say that daily headaches are just a part of life. You can see that the line between adapting to the headache and adapting to a horrible quality of life quickly begins to blur. Understand that when you are simply addressing a symptom, whether through your own ability to adapt, or by masking the pain with a medication, you are doing nothing to improve your situation.

Symptoms are your body’s warning system and are there to alert you to an underlying problem. Trying to adapt to (ignore) a continuous symptom is like mentally blocking out the fire alarm while your house burns down around you. Remember that the symptom is not the problem, but a result of the problem. The only effective way to bolster your health and your quality of life is to correct the underlying cause. Getting regular acupuncture treatments can help you achieve the quality of life you want!