“How many acupuncture treatments will I need?” This question is one I am asked by almost every prospective patient, along with “What does it feel like?” It’s a great question, although one not easily answered without first getting a detailed health history from a patient.
In general, for most acute conditions (usually sudden onset of pain that you have experienced for a short period of time) you will likely need 2-6 treatments. Timelines for the treatment of chronic conditions are not as straightforward. The goal of the treatment is to create healing from within. This often involves re-training the body. You would never expect to go to the gym or to physical therapy once or twice and experience lasting changes in your body. The same is true with Chinese Medicine. Whether internal, or external, physical or emotional, healing takes time, it’s as simple as that. Acupuncture studies on a variety of conditions, often show that a series of treatments (10-20), with a frequency of 1-3 times a week, is necessary for positive results. A general rule of thumb is you will need a month of treatment for every year you have had this condition, but again, every situation is different.
The goal is to treat both the root of the issue and the symptoms at the same time. The symptoms will often disappear quickly; many times pain will be gone while on the acupuncture table, only to return the next few days. Acupuncture is cumulative, meaning the treatments build upon each other. Just because the pain comes back does not mean that it always will. Often the pain will decline in severity and frequency and taper off as the root cause is slowly fixed.
This is a general chart that describes a very common trend in pain, it goes up and down, but often after the 5th treatment, patients report a significant reduction in the intensity. I often meet people who have tried acupuncture once or twice without achieving the desired results. As I mentioned before, acupuncture is cumulative and takes commitment to a treatment plan. If we could cure everyone in one treatment, we would charge a heck of a lot more for that one treatment! Because acupuncture works best as a series of treatments, we offer discounted packages to patients paying out-of-pocket for treatments.
I’m sure every practioner has had a few seemingly miraculous experiences, chronic migraines for ten years, gone in 2 treatments; frozen shoulder, unlocked with one needle. The truth is, these experiences are the very rare exception, not the rule. The reality is that severe back pain with bulging discs, which someone has had for years, might take weeks of frequent treatment (2-3 times a week) before any lasting changes are noticed. Patients with chronic degenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s Disease or rheumatoid arthritis might need long-term maintenance treatments to improve their quality of life. Others choose to use Chinese Medicine over pharmaceutical medications to manage long term conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, menopausal symptoms, menstrual irregularities, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or headaches, as there are no side effects with acupuncture.
If you are considering trying acupuncture, I hope this blog was able to give you a general idea about what to expect for a timeline of treatment. The best way to know how acupuncture will work for you is to try it!