Response to Treatment

It is difficult to tell how a patient will respond to acupuncture. Occasionally, one treatment will work, while other people may need several treatments for the same result. In general most do not respond magically to a single treatment.  Sometimes 4-8 treatments may be required to obtain the desired results from acupuncture. 

Acupuncture usually works in stages. The first one or two treatments represent a process of 'understanding the needs of the patient'. Some people respond to classical Chinese body acupuncture, while others respond better to ear acupuncture. This partially reflects the skill of the acupuncturist in the use of specific techniques, but it also represents the fact that the body responds in a slightly different way to slightly different stimuli. Some people seem to respond to a particular acupuncture technique for one condition while requiring a completely different technique for another complaint. A patient may even respond to a particular approach for a specific condition and then stop improving halfway through treatment, thus necessitating an alternative approach to that condition. If a patient experiences some symptomatic improvement at the first session, then they often gain considerable relief from a course of acupuncture; equally, many people who do not obtain symptomatic improvement at the first consultation may also gain a great deal from acupuncture. It is a good prognostic sign if there is some instant improvement, although the improvement gained at the first visit rarely lasts longer than a few hours.

Each subsequent treatment should then give a better and more prolonged result, and the symptoms should gradually disappear as the treatment becomes effective.  Three treatments should be adequate to assess whether a patient will respond to acupuncture. If there has been no response to treatment after the first 3 sessions, then it is doubtful whether any response will occur. This should be taken as a general guideline and not as an unbreakable rule as sometimes the symptoms of a particular condition may fluctuate, and it may be difficult to obtain a clear assessment of the results of treatment. Occasionally the patient may not find it easy to remember exactly what the condition was like three weeks before, and this too can create difficulties, so it is wise to keep a diary and assess day-by-day the changes that are arising in the problem being treated. This will allow the patient and the acupuncturist to develop a clear idea of the response to treatment, and to assess whether the treatment is worthwhile. 

Most acupuncturists will treat a patient until he or she is cured or no further improvement in their condition is noted. In Dr. Liu's clinic, twice a week of treatment is recommended for first 2 weeks, then once a week after that depending on their response.