My goal for my acupuncture patients is the same as theirs–to help them feel better as quickly as possible. However, from time to time, I will see a patient who comes in for a first acupuncture treatment expecting that all of their health issues will be resolved after that one session on the table. I do everything I can to explain that acupuncture stimulates the healing process of your body–which takes time, but still, some people are disappointed that they’re not all better after one visit.
I mean really, if you’ve had migraines for 30 years, do you expect to be completely cured after taking one pill? If your back has been hurting you for decades, do you expect complete relief after one physical therapy session? Why should acupuncture be any different? After all, it’s a therapy, and most therapies take some time.
That said, you should be feeling some results after a couple of treatments. Frequently what I see is that after a treatment or two, patients are sleeping better or feeling more relaxed, which is the beginning of the healing process. Your symptoms are worse and it’s hard to heal when you’re stressed out or tired.
Sometimes the pain or problem isn’t better after a treatment, but it’s different, and I consider that a good thing, too. When you have a long-standing pain or symptom, your body becomes used to it. That pain becomes your “new normal”, and it becomes a physiological habit. If, after an acupuncture treatment, that symptom has changed, it tells me that we’re beginning to alter that habit and the healing process is under way.
When a patient wants to know how long it will take for something to heal, there are a couple of factors I take into account. Among them:
-How long you’ve had the condition. If you’ve had irritable bowel symptoms for twenty years, it will most likely take longer than the person who began having similar symptoms last month.
-The nature of your complaint or illness. Many conditions are quickly resolved with Chinese medicine, including stress, anxiety, digestive issues, PMS, and many types of pain. On the other hand, deep-seated chronic illnesses, such as autoimmune conditions tend to take longer.
-Your general health. I have seen many young and healthy patients surprise me with how quickly they heal. However, older patients, those in really poor health, and those on numerous medications tend to need more time and treatments.
-Your commitment to getting better. What you do at home in between treatments can make a huge difference in how quickly you heal. If you implement your practitioner’s suggestions regarding dietary therapy, heating or cooling an injury, herbal formulas, and lifestyle changes, you can speed up your recovery.
So what do I tell prospective patients when they ask me how many treatments they’ll need? My best answer is that acupuncture is a therapy and while some people may heal very quickly–in just a few sessions–others will take longer. I advise them to give acupuncture a fair try, say three or four treatments, to see how they’re improving. At that point, I will have a better idea of how many treatments they will ultimately need to heal completely.