Acupuncture: How long does it take to see positive results?

Over the last few months, we've been talking about the treatment process – how we diagnose, how issues are treated, and your pathway back to health. One of the most frequent and most important questions every new patient wants to know is “how long will it take for me to be well (or pain-free or feeling normal)?”  While the answer is always “it depends”, we understand how frustrating an answer this can be. Here we want to give you more information this month that hopefully will help to answer your question.

As we mentioned before, when we take on a new patient we have a high degree of confidence that we can treat that patient to “resolution.” “Resolution” is a bit subjective here because we not only look to resolve the primary reason you come to us for treatment, but we also look for other related issues to resolve as well, regardless whether or not the patient indicated that as an area of concern. If you go back to our December blog post about the Root and Branch, you'll see this allows us to treat the source of the imbalance as well as the primary symptoms. Symptoms are addressed in the context of the high-level imbalance and as the high level imbalances are corrected, symptoms resolve and cease to be an issue.

We divided the treatment process into 3 phases – I. Stabilization, II. As Little Treatment as Possible, with Improvement, and III. Maintaining Balance.

Phase I: Stabilization

In the Stabilization Phase, we expect to see some significant improvement in symptoms and schedule treatments frequently – usually once or twice weekly. During the early part of this phase we are determining the “dosage” for your treatments. The correct dosage restarts the healing process in your body so that the symptoms that brought you into the clinic are mostly not there between visits. This is why we say “it depends”. Everyone responds to treatment a little differently so some cases may require more frequent treatments and for some the number of treatments may be more or less than others. If you've been dealing with the issue for a long time (years), you can expect this phase to take longer. A rule of thumb is one month of treatments for every year that you've experienced the problem. However, we very often get significantly better results than this rule, as we expect to see noticeable changes within four – six treatments, though it may take longer for you to be symptom free between treatments if you have a chronic issue. Sometimes the primary symptom takes longer to resolve, but you may see other changes in secondary symptoms like sleeping better or less anxiety sooner. We will reassess after the first few treatments once we see how your body responds and can then give you a better idea of how long this phase may take.

Phase II: As little treatment as possible, with improvement

In Phase II, we begin to spread treatments further apart to get an idea of how your body responds with less treatment. We want to see continued improvement in symptoms with the key measure here being that the body is able to remain in balance for longer periods of time without treatment. Treatments may be moved to once every two or three weeks, and eventually will move to monthly. In Phase I, we spend time establishing the correct dosage, in Phase II, we work on establishing the correct interval between treatments.

Phase III: Maintaining Balance

Phase III is about helping your body stay in balance. Treatments are completely patient driven with you coming in for a “tune up” to head off symptoms before they begin (just like changing the oil in your car), or just to ensure your body is re-balanced as the season changes which is a common time for the body to get out of balance. We don’t prescribe rigorous maintenance intervals, because by the time a patient is in Phase III, they are developing an awareness of what their body needs and how to take corrective steps. We find that by the time one gets to Phase III, they possess the ability to know when and at what interval to seek help.

We realize that everyone wants a clear answer to the question of how long it will take, and we hope this discussion will help you to understand how to think about it. We encourage you to become aware of subtle and not so subtle changes over the course of treatment and feel free to discuss your progression with us.

Posted in Acupuncture