|One of the most common questions that new patients ask me is often they should receive acupuncture treatment. Like any other therapy, acupuncture has a cumulative effect, with each treatment building on the previous one.
At the beginning of treatment, more frequent appointments are recommended. The body may show improvement after a single treatment, but it’s highly likely that there will be a slide back to the original state. Frequent acupuncture appointments provide the necessary circulation of qi (oxygen in the blood) throughout the body to heal the condition that is being addressed and stay ahead of that slide back.
My general recommendation for new patients is three treatments in the first week – or even more if a patient is experiencing severe pain. This frequency lets me focus on reducing the most severe symptoms and also see how a patient’s body responds to treatment. This will tell me if acupuncture is the right type of treatment for this patient.
After that, I recommend at least 10 treatments, with two or three treatments per week. I call this the “repair and restore” phase. In addition to relieving symptoms, this phase of treatment focuses on the underlying cause of disharmony or imbalance within the body. The number of treatments will vary by condition; long-term or chronic conditions will likely require more treatments. Because acupuncture treatments are cumulative, the goal is to avoid cutting back too soon so that the body doesn’t begin to slide back. Try not to miss an appointment!
Once those treatments have happened, I will evaluate patients to see how they are progressing. This is an important step, as it lets me determine if there has been a change to a patient’s condition or the diagnostic signs that I see. Eastern Medicine emphasizes that each patient is different, so a treatment plan is based on an individual patient’s needs and responses to treatment, not a standard plan from a medical textbook.
If the condition hasn’t resolved and there is more work to be done, then we will stay in the “repair and restore” phase until your symptoms have subsided and the imbalance within your body has stabilized. Depending on your condition, Chinese herbal medicine may be a part of your treatment plan as well.
If there has been significant improvement or complete resolution in the condition that brought a patient to seek acupuncture treatment, then we can move to the “maintenance” phase. Treatments will scale back to once a week or less, with the option to add treatments before periods of travel or when the seasons change. (We all know what that can do to the health of even the heartiest New Englander.) The goal here is to maintain the progress we have made while supporting your overall well-being. Of course, patients are free to schedule more frequent appointments if they feel like they need the support or are experiencing times of stress. We may also use this time to address any additional health complaints that perhaps weren’t quite as pronounced or urgent, but are important to resolve for overall wellness.
Ask Your Acupuncturist
What factors can affect the way my body responds to acupuncture treatment?
Acupuncture treatment is a process, and frequency of appointments is only one factor that can affect how your body responds to treatment. A few factors that are mostly outside your control will affect the way you respond – your health history, the severity of your condition, age, gender, and so on. But there are also factors that you can control, including stress, exercise, diet, and sleep. As you begin treatment, I will explain the importance of addressing these factors and give you some tips for making improvements.