Barbara Poczyniak, R.Ac, Registered Acupuncturist & Arvigo®Therapy Practitioner
One of the most frequent questions I get is how often to come in for treatments and how this can make a difference to your results. Every person has a different condition and each body may also react differently to acupuncture. However, the one thing that remains constant: more often is usually better in the case of acupuncture.
Chronic or Acute Condition
Acupuncture is not magic - it is a system of medicine, and like any system it needs to follow certain patterns to get results. When recommending how often to come in, I always start with the basics: is your situation a chronic condition or is it an acute issue?
For chronic, long term conditions I generally will expect treatment to last 1 month for every year the condition has persisted. This can fluctuate greatly, but gives us a good general idea. For instance, if you have had a chronic condition such as IBS for 3 - 6 years, expect gradual improvement of symptoms over 3 - 6 months. During the first month or so I highly suggest clients come in at least twice per week. This allows us to really see how the body is reacting to the acupuncture treatment. The intention is also to build upon the positive effects each treatment and not lose momentum. Once relief of symptoms is established and we have addressed the root cause, we can space treatments further apart, but never so far apart that symptoms will come back.
For acute, short term conditions the general idea is to come in for a series of acupuncture treatments in quick succession, as that can help eradicate a problem that is new. For instance an acute sports injury can usually be helped with several treatments spaced out over a few weeks. Again, I always recommend at least twice per week the first few weeks. If everything else is well with you and your body reacts positively acupuncture usually handles most acute issues pretty quickly.
Get the most value out of acupuncture
If you're serious about resolving an issue such as chronic headaches, painful periods or long term anxiety it is much better value to come in for a series of concentrated sessions over a shorter span of time. If you allow only 1 visit per month over several months it doesn't let us make much progress and you will probably feel let down by acupuncture.
In acupuncture's country of origin, Chinese Acupuncture doctors treat patients in the TCM hospitals on a daily basis. This high-frequency treatment model is meant to get fast results, and patients expect it to work if they follow the schedule. It is not really possible to over-do it, especially if receiving the right acupuncture on a daily basis. Your body will always take exactly what it needs from the treatment, and it will always receive positive effects.
For most conditions I will also make recommendations for self care, lifestyle tips or nutrition choices that can help work alongside the acupuncture regimen. If you are not making any other changes and only relying on acupuncture alone it will be much more challenging to get results with only a monthly treatment.
Acupuncture therapy should be thought of like exercise: it feels great when you have one workout but to really see some results you have to visit the gym multiple times on a regular basis. Once you're in good shape we can talk about maintenance visits to keep it up.
Acupuncture maintenance visits
I have a number of clients who just like getting acupuncture, and this really pleases me because they really get how it works. They have followed the initial treatment schedule and come in regularly, felt much better and are now in 'maintenance mode'. This means that as long as they are feeling good, its enough to come in for a tune-up treatment once every month or maybe even during each change of seasons.
Acupuncture insurance coverage in Ontario
I am happy to see that more and more employers are including acupuncture by a Registered Acupuncturist as part of their employee benefit plan. This is great news for those of you that have coverage, and as more people ask for it this will only become more common. If you have only get a set amount of coverage per year from your employer I would strongly suggest putting it towards a series of acupuncture treatments that are scheduled close together - rather than spacing out random visits over a 12 month period. This will insure that you get better results in a shorter period, and much better value overall.
Hi, I'm Barbara Poczyniak. Registered Acupuncturist practicing in Toronto.