Acupuncture treatment is a therapy, not a magic cure. The effectiveness of treatment is cumulative, each visit adds to the prior visit. It is common to need 6-20 treatments in order to achieve patient graduation, which is my goal. The more severe the issue, generally, the more treatments you will need and the closer together they need to be scheduled.
The first treatment usually brings down intensity in someone with a high intensity condition. Sometimes, the symptom completely goes away after the first treatment, but the condition will generally come back. Therefore, it is very important to treat again. The symptom reduces more then comes back. There is a yo-yo effect in the beginning, where pain improves, returns to a lesser degree and improves some more. This is called the Curve of Recovery from the Problem (see graph below).
Eventually, the condition will start to plateau. The first five treatments usually will dramatically bring the symptoms down. Then there will be a stubborn 10-20% of symptom intensity remaining. The last 10% can take as many treatments as the first 90% to cure.
The Curve of Recovery from the Problem
Here is an analogy to help you understand this concept better.
It is easy to cut down a tree, the hard part is digging out the roots and cleaning up the mess.
Many people say, “then this is not permanent relief.” I say, it is permanent relief if you follow through on the treatment plan. If you only have two or three treatments, then you are right, it is likely that you will experience temporary relief and the pain will return.
If temporary relief is experienced, then treatment has not been close enough together or there have not been enough visits.
Some patients need to be seen daily in the beginning, if the disorder is severe. Why? Because in 5 treatments you will be much better, then we will slow down the treatment interval. Your next visit has to be before the symptom gets back to the original level of intensity.
It is my goal to graduate my patients with complete recovery from their condition. Acupuncture treatment is a therapy, however, so yes, you really need to come 6-20 times fairly close together. This is how acupuncture works to heal the body. It is a therapy, it is not receive one treatment and you are done, completely healed.
Physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic therapy, even chemotherapy and radiation therapy are all therapies that require multiple visits to cure a condition and no one questions it. Acupuncture is no different.
In general, chronic conditions usually take longer to resolve than acute conditions. Occasionally, a person will get lucky and only need one treatment. I wish I could promise that for every patient, but this is the exception to the rule. The effectiveness accumulates with every treatment received.
Once a patient is graduated, they may decide to come in quarterly, as the seasons change for a “seasonal tune-up”. A different pair of meridians are active during different seasons, so coming in at that times helps facilitate a smooth transition of the dominant energy flow and can reduce potential symptoms that may flare up at this time.