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This is one of the first questions that most people considering acupuncture have

We are all busy and money doesn’t grow on trees. It is natural to feel impatient and to hope for a dramatic and rapid results from a new treatment. The short answer to this question is that an “average” initial course of treatment consists of eight to ten sessions, with most people noticing a clear benefit within three to four sessions. Usually during the initial course of treatment sessions are scheduled on a weekly basis, although in severe cases more frequent treatments are necessary. Many chronic problems (for example back pain of several years’ duration, lifelong seasonal allergies, or persistent insomnia) require multiple courses of treatment before it is possible to transition to maintenance care. In contrast, acute problems (for example a recent ankle sprain or a bout with influenza) typically require fewer treatments, in many cases two or three are adequate.

You didn’t get this way overnight

It is important to remember — you didn’t get this way overnight and you are not going to heal overnight either. Acupuncture is like eating well or working out — you can’t do it just once and expect it to have a significant and lasting impact on your health. I am results-oriented and my goal is to get you to the point that you can stop treatment or transition to maintenance care as quickly as possible. On the other hand, without exception my patients who have had the best results and who have gone on to truly “graduate” from their pain and health problems are those who have patiently committed to consistent treatment.

The spectrum of acupuncture response

It is difficult to predict up front how quickly your body will respond to acupuncture.  About 10% of people are what we call “acupuncture strong responders”.  This means that they will notice dramatic and lasting benefit from just a few sessions.  On the other end of the spectrum is about 10% of people who we consider “acupuncture non-responders”.  These people will not benefit from acupuncture, no matter how many treatments they receive.  The remaining 80% of people fall somewhere between these two extremes. If you are going to respond to the therapy, you can expect to see some positive changes within 3-4 sessions.  This does not mean that your symptoms are gone within this period of time, only that your pain or symptoms are less severe, you are sleeping more restfully, your mood is brighter, you are having more “good days” than you did before, etc.  This is an encouraging result which suggests that will continuing care you will experience more and more relief.

Phases of treatment

Children or young people in good health with acute problems (for example a cold or minor ankle sprain) often only require 2-3 treatments.  Older individuals and those with chronic health problems typically require a longer course of treatment.  In these cases, treatment is divided into three phases:

  • Acute care – During this phase, treatments are scheduled weekly (or 2-3 times per week in severe cases).  The goal during this phase is to relieve symptoms and to start the process of addressing the underlying cause of pain or health problems.
  • Convalescent care – During this phase, treatments are usually scheduled every two weeks.  The goal during this phase is to maintain symptomatic relief while focusing on resolving underlying disharmonies and preventing future problems.
  • Maintenance care – During this phase, treatments are scheduled once a month or four times per year (usually at the change of seasons).  The goal during this phase of care is to maintain the progress we have made and to support your vitality and overall wellbeing.


The length of time you spend in each phase depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Whether your problem is acute or chronic
  • How long you have had the problem
  • Whether you can avoid the conditions that caused your problem
  • Your age
  • Your general state of health
  • How readily your body responds to acupuncture (see above)
  • Whether or not you follow the instructions you are given regarding diet and lifestyle

Progress will be faster if you faithfully follow your treatment plan by keeping your appointments, taking your herbal medication every day (if applicable), and following any advice that you are given about dietary or lifestyle changes. Click here to learn about The Three Free Therapies — things that you can do at home to minimize the number of treatments you will require.