I am often asked, "How do I get the best results from my acupuncture treatments?"
The short answer is, get acupuncture 3-5 times per week for approximately 3 weeks. You see, acupuncture is cumulative, meaning the more you get, the better it works, especially if you get the treatments close together during the initial course of treatment.
If you were to read a Traditional Chinese Medicine journal, you would see that in virtually every report, acupuncture is administered daily, for several days in a row, typically 5-10 days consecutively, followed by a short break of 1-3 days, and then another course of 5-10 days of treatment, until the symptoms have been alleviated. This is how acupuncture gets the best results.
The practice of receiving acupuncture once-a-week, in the United States, was an adaptation to lifestyle and financial factors. Community Acupuncture practitioners have made an effort to change this system. However, once-a-week acupuncture is still the norm. This is great for cupping and follow-up herbal consultations, but acupuncture really needs to have greater frequency during the initial course of treatment. Otherwise, progress looks and feels more like a rollercoaster; feeling better for one to three days post treatment with the symptoms creeping back in, almost to the starting point, by week’s end. This is frustrating for both the patient and the practitioner, and is where some people determine that acupuncture didn’t work for them. In actuality, the problem was with the frequency of treatment.
Ideally, you should receive a treatment before the symptoms begin to return. The progress then looks and feels more like reaching a summit. The summit being a resolution or significant improvement of symptoms that lasts.
After your symptoms have been resolved, a gradual weaning off of acupuncture is needed to hold the new energy pattern in place. Ideally, most people would do best with a monthly treatment to maintain their results, especially for those with a fast and stressful pace of life.
I have always struggled with having this information, but not knowing how to implement it with the time and financial restrictions common to those of us in the western world. Typically, the solution is Community Acupuncture. (Seeing several patients at once with simple, more global treatments.) I did take a turn at community style acupuncture in my practice about 15 years ago. It was satisfying, to say the least, but child-rearing overtook that part of my work. Those of you that remember this know that it was everything but socially distanced!
ENTER: Covid-19.... The time sheltering-in-place, the recommendation of physical distancing, and the knowing that many of you are financially limited but wanting to optimize your health, gave me the inspiration I needed to re-think this dilemma. While scrambling to come up with spaces to practice that allowed distancing between clients, air clearing, and time for me to clean, I realized I had six separate treatment spaces, perfect for physically distanced, community style acupuncture. I thought it was time I was lacking, but actually it was real estate. Clients have always said that I needed a napping area, so they could sleep longer. :)
Speaking of napping...community style acupuncture typically involves a less elaborate treatment (no backs or bellies, just hands, feet, head, and ears). Because of this reduced needle count, it means only 5 minutes of face to face time which minimizes potential Covid exposure, AND allows for more rest. That’s 25 to 50 minutes of rest with needles (your choice). Can you just imagine a 50 minute acupuncture nap?!?! For those of you with limited time a 25 minute nap will get you in and out of your appointment in a little more than 30 minutes, still, with great results.
"But," you say, "Back pain is my primary complaint. Don't I need needles back there?" Nope, you don't. The most effective back treatment I have is on the hand. Of course, cupping would help, and I really do love cupping but acupuncture is just as effective when administered with greater frequency. Writing this article has made me acutely aware of how much I rely on cupping to resolve many issues. However, there are many acupuncturist that don't use cupping at all and get good results.
Of course, sometimes you want or need the full service experience with acupuncture, cupping, and lifestyle advice. This is still available. Let’s talk about what would work for you.