Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How many acupuncture sessions do I need ?

How many acupuncture sessions do I need ?

This is a fair and often-asked question.   If you have a problem, you will want to fix it.  Generally, you will want to know how long it’s going to take or how many sessions of treatment are needed before a solution is reached or the problem is rectified.   To be frank,  this question is not an easy one to answer.  It would be nice to be able to say:  headache, that is 2 treatments; tired muscles from exercise = 1 treatment; lower back pain for 2 months = 7 treatments.

Unfortunately,  it’s not possible to be that exact.

The body is a constantly changing and adapting organism.  Some patients respond quickly and need only 2 treatments.  Others are very different and may need 6 sessions for the same problem.

However, it can be exasperating to hear “it depends” or “how long is a piece of string” in regards to how many treatments you need, so I’ll try and summarise some general factors that indictate a rough estimate of how many sessions.

Acute problems = 1 – 4 acupuncture treatments

If the problem is acute (1 week) or short term (less than a month), then the body should respond to a certain degree after the first session.  This change may occur immediately or more usually a day or two later as the acupuncture effect is a bit like exercise – it takes a little while for the stimulus to be absorbed and take effect.

In this case, the treatment range would be between 1 – 4 treatments.  After 4 acupuncture treatments, I would expect there to be a significant beneficial effect to alleviate the problem.  If not, then perhaps acupuncture is not the right treatment course in this situation.

Chronic problems = 4 – 10 acupuncture treatments

If the problem has been present for 2 or more months, then it will require a series of up to 4 treatments to gauge the response.  At the end of the 4 sessions, progress will be assessed and if indicated, another 4 to 6 treatments will be recommended.  This would allow acupuncture an appropriate chance to address the problem.

You could also view the treatments as occurring in different stages:

Corrective stage – Treatments to bring the body back to homeostasis (balance)

Maintenance stage – top up treatments to keep the problem in check


In my experience,  acupuncture is needed at least once a week in the corrective stage. This keeps the momentum going forward as the sessions build on each other.  To speed things up, you can come multiple times a week.  This can be a beneficial way to make a stronger impact on the problem at the start of treatment course.

Maintenance phase – this can be done every 1 to 3 months to keep the body from slipping back into the previous negative habits and to pre-empt a return of the problem.

Response to acupuncture treatment is also dependent on many factors, but here are just a few:

General health
Fitness level
Work type/amount/intensity
Attitude to recovery

Patients will heal at different rates even if it is for similar problems.  Having said that, I hope the above summary gives a rough indication of how many treatments may be required to alleviate or remedy a health problem.