Every once in a while, I’ll come across someone who, in talking about acupuncture, will tell me that they had a friend or a family member who tried acupuncture once—as in one time—and it didn’t work. I’m always amazed and curious as to what that one-timer was thinking. Did they think acupuncture was a magic cure that after only one session years of pain, stress, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise would be erased? Really?
Let me set the record straight. It usually takes more than one session of acupuncture to feel better. Acupuncture is like any other therapy or health habit—it takes a little time. When you decide you’re sick of being a couch spud and begin to exercise, you don’t expect to be in shape after one session at the gym. When you get tired of having bad dental check-ups, you don’t floss one time and expect you mouth to be pristine. And when you go to physical therapy for your knee pain, you rarely expect it to be for just one visit.
Similarly, it takes more than one acupuncture treatment to alleviate your symptoms. How many more? It depends on a number of factors. Acupuncture stimulates your body’s natural tendency to heal and its effects are cumulative. If you’ve had your symptoms for a long time, it can take a series of treatments to feel better. Furthermore, if you are in poor health, frail, or your immune system is weakened, your ability to heal may be affected and it may take you longer to respond. The severity of your symptoms, whether your symptoms come and go, and your emotions also play a role in how quickly you will feel better.
Your commitment to getting better is also a factor in your healing time. What you do at home and in between treatments can dramatically speed your recovery. Home care in the form of food therapy, rest, stretching, heat therapy, and herbal medicine are all ways that you can partner with your acupuncturist and continue the healing process at home.
A good rule of thumb is to plan on four or five treatments. In that space of time, both you and your acupuncturist will know how well you are healing and how to proceed. In many cases, your symptoms are gone, and you’re done with treatment. In some instances, you may be feeling lots better, but there is still healing to be done, and we will talk through how many more sessions you should plan on.
Our job as practitioners is to help you feel better as soon as possible and send you on your way. And while acupuncture is an effective, safe, and drug-free way to heal, it will take more than one visit.