One of the most difficult questions to answer is “how much acupuncture will I need?” Just a few treatments may do the trick if you are relatively young and healthy with just a single recent health problem – something like an ankle sprain, indigestion or lots of coughs and colds. However, the longer you have had a problem then the longer it usually takes to clear up – I have several patients with longstanding knee and shoulder problems who have improved gradually over six or more treatments. Similarly, if you are older and have a number of health problems and/or a general lack of energy then progress may be gradual. Quite commonly, people find that although they come with a single problem, acupuncture treatment helps with other things such as improving sleep, energy and emotional wellbeing. In these circumstances they may decide to continue acupuncture every month or so to keep themselves well.
Having said all this, I cannot always predict how quickly an individual will respond to acupuncture. For example, I recall two women with quite complex medical problems who came because of longstanding wrist pain – they were both on hospital waiting lists for specialist treatment. After just one treatment on the wrist, they were in much less pain and after a couple more treatments they were able to use the hand normally again. They both continue with acupuncture for other problems which are improving more slowly. And, of course, I occasionally treat someone who does not get any of the improvement I expect.
The aim of acupuncture is to help the body use its own natural healing capacity to get better. Consequently, I often give you self-help suggestions that will work alongside the acupuncture. These suggestions are based on giving you some understanding of how Chinese Medicine views your health problem and they are particularly important for making sure the benefits of treatment are long-lasting. Whilst a ‘quick fix’ is always very welcome, most of us are also keen to find ways of stopping the problem returning. Such suggestions will vary a lot from person to person, and may include ideas about eating, exercising, relaxing, playing and finding ways to ‘live the life you want to live’.
Lastly, what is going on in your lives, both now and in the past, has a big effect on how quickly and surely acupuncture can help. People who are struggling with overwork, poverty, loneliness or other severe stress will still benefit from acupuncture – indeed treatment should help them to cope with stress better – but improvement can be more gradual and treatment may need to continue for longer. Luckily, our bodies and minds have tremendous self-healing powers and with help from friends and from therapies such as acupuncture we should always be able to find a way forward.