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How long will it take to feel the benefits of acupuncture?

by Kathy
(Maryland)

Question: I have several issues that I believe are linked. I have frequent headaches, I don't sleep well and I think I'm developing anxiety from worrying about my headaches. I'm starting to worry about every little ache and pain. Can acupuncture help me, how soon will I feel relief and many visits will it take for complete healing? Is acupuncute a maintenance type treatment?

ANSWER: This is such a great question! The beauty of Chinese Medicine is that it is a medicine of patterns. While Western medicine has found success at breaking things down into small parts to design treatments, Chinese medicine looks at the big picture, the overarching patterns of symptoms to help the patient heal. Over thousands of years, Chinese doctors noted that certain symptoms occurred in clusters and when treated also improved at the same time. So, yes, from the viewpoint of Chinese medicine your headaches, anxiety and insomnia are related. Often when we treat for one symptom, such as headache you will see an improvement in all the symptoms. But sometimes we need to break it down and prioritize if you have a lot of symptoms/patterns at the same time.

In addition to acupuncture, moxa, cupping, gua sha and other traditional Chinese techniques, I do a lot of health coaching with my patients. I find that tweaking the diet, combined with acupuncture and some self-acupressure can usually resolve the symptoms you describe within 3 months or so. Most patients notice a change within a few weeks of beginning treatment, but some don't notice any change until after 6-8 treatments.

With Chinese medicine treatments are individualized to each patient. It would be difficult to recommend a specific frequency or number of visits without seeing you in person, feeling your pulses and looking at your tongue for diagnostic purposes. That's one reason I offer a free 15-minute consultation, so that people have a chance to ask questions and I can give them a quick recommendation.

Many patients come in for an initial course of treatment (8-12 visits) and do not require follow-up care. Others need to come in for ongoing or maintenance treatments in order to stay feeling well or to address serious health issues. Many choose to get regular treatment of once a month or seasonally (every 3 months) for stress-relief and as a "tune-up." Again different people have different goals and responses to treatment, so we individualize our plan to the person, not to the illness/symptoms.

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