How long does it take for acupuncture to work?

Probably the question I am asked most consistently by new patients is: "How many treatments will I need?"

I get it. Complementary therapies aren't cheap in Australia. While I'm far from the most expensive acupuncturist in Canberra, I'm not the cheapest either. Like most people, I feel more comfortable going into any kind of financial arrangement when I have a clear idea of how much it will cost in total.

Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question. Here are the factors I take into account:

1. How severe is the problem?

Generally speaking, there is a positive correlation between how bad the problem is and how many treatments it will take to fix. For instance, if your back pain is just due to muscular spasm, you'll need far fewer treatments then you would if you had ruptured an intervertebral disk.

As a general rule, problems that are related to physical structures, such as torn tendons, broken bones, damaged cartilage etc take quite a bit of work.

2. How long has the patient had the problem?

Have you been having headaches for the last 10 years? Then that will probably take a lot longer for me to fix then someone who just started having headaches in the last month.

Long-term problems are, by definition, stubborn; if they were easy to fix, you probably wouldn't be coming in to see me :-)

3. What, exactly, is the problem?

Some conditions are inherently difficult to treat. That doesn't mean we won't get excellent results, just that we probably won't get them quickly.

A prime example of this is chronic fatigue syndrome. To treat this, the patient's exhausted energy reserves must be slowly, steadily rebuilt. This generally takes several months.

However, some conditions do respond very quickly. Even if someone has had hayfever for years, I can generally get a good result for them within 1- 3 treatments.

4. How does the patient respond to the first couple of treatments?

Generally speaking, it's difficult to know how each individual will respond to treatment until they have been treated once or twice. The patient's overall state of health and the strength of their constitution significantly affect how much mileage we get out of any given treatment. After a couple of treatments, we can start to see the rate of progress that can be expected in the future. From this we can get a rough idea of how many treatments will be required to fix the problem.

I hope this helps you make an informed decision regarding your healthcare expenditure.

Stay well,

Adam