It depends… Like so many questions, the answer depends on a variety of factors. If you are seeking acupuncture for a new pain, bothering you right now – such as neck or back pain, headaches or sinus pressure, you may see some relief within one session. However, a single treatment effect may not last very long. Often, with a difficult or chronic problem from a longer-lasting health issue, results can take longer to realize. I tell patients to expect some sort of a response within 2-3 sessions, which is usually over the course of a week or two.
So, one can expect pain conditions begin to improve with 2-3 sessions of acupuncture. This is similar to a “dose response” with medications. You often cannot relieve an issue with just one dose of a medication. Body therapies are no different. Chiropractic adjustments, physical rehab, and massage therapy may also provide relief simply with one session, yet it will take a series of treatments to resolve the problem.
Acupuncture demonstrates cumulative benefits.
Similarly, with acupuncture, we see cumulative, positive effects of treatments. These treatments build on each other. The relief starts to last longer and longer between sessions. If we are working on the musculoskeletal system, we expect some sort of positive response within the first 2 weeks. Pain is usually what brings people to schedule an evaluation. Pain has kept them from doing the things they want or need to do – work, sleep, garden, or play with their kids. While acupuncture works for many conditions beyond pain, pain is a good indicator of one’s health. Pain is common, but it is not normal. Usually, I see patients twice per week during the first few weeks of a treatment plan. This ensures an adequate frequency of treatment for a cumulative effect. Sometimes, we need to make changes to the treatment or take a different direction if someone’s condition is not adequately responding to acupuncture.
Acupuncture takes longer to work for chronic conditions.
While many pain conditions have an early response to treatment, digestive, hormonal, and other health organ systems may take more time. I often couple nutritional counseling with acupuncture treatments in order to encompass all aspects of a condition. It is true that we are what we eat! The body’s chemistry is made up of the nutrients, or food, we consume.
Be a patient patient on your journey to health!
Ancient Chinese Medicine is rooted in the relationship between internal and external environments. The meridians, or pathways of acupuncture points, are related to organ systems. So there is a direct correlation between the external food we eat and the internal environment of our organ systems. When I couple a chiropractic approach and a traditional acupuncture approach, then you can improve your health in a relatively fast and sustainable way.
In this video, Dr. Holly Tucker answers how quickly does acupuncture work.