How Long Does It Take Acupuncture To Work?

The short answer; it depends.

The long answer; it depends on a lot of things.

We all have heard what acupuncture can treat – but that’s not what you want to know. You want to know how long it’s going to take you to get better so you can start running/cycling/dancing/climbing again.

Just like finishing that entire pint of ice cream after a bad day, sometimes acupuncture will make you feel better right away. But, just like eating that same pint of ice cream, sometimes it doesn’t. (Shout out to my lactose-intolerant-but-regular-ice-cream-eating friends!)

We all know that acupuncture works because insurance companies cover it, and we know insurance companies are not in the business of woo-woo, energy medicine. How fast it works is more variable – and your insurance company totally understands (they often will cover multiple treatments). 

  •  The more chronic the injury, the longer it will take.

The best time to come in for an acupuncture treatment is the day after you first notice the twinge in your knee, ping in your low back or the beginnings of a migraine. The more recent the injury, the faster the acupuncture will work.

  • How often you come in matters.

Acupuncture is like exercise - the more you do it the better you feel. The long-lasting effects of exercise are more dramatic if you exercise everyday vs. once a month. Same goes for acupuncture.

  • The younger you are, the faster you heal - sometimes.

This is one of the more annoying answers, but it is true. Your baby cousin's injury will probably heal faster than Grandma's, unless Grandma goes to the acupuncturist the day after she tweaks her back. And remember - healthy people - regardless of age - heal faster than others. So if Grandma is a regular runner + yogi while your baby cousin plays video games 13 hours a day, acupuncture will work faster and more effectively for Grandma.

Here is a very general guide that we sometimes follow.

  • If your plan is a 10 out of 10, or you're at you wit's end: Daily until we see changes.
  • If your pain is a 5 out of 10: 2-3 times a week.
  • If your pain is a 4 or less: 1-2 times a week.
  • Chronic issues that are not severe: Once a week for 6-8 weeks and then we will re-evaluate.
  • Long term chronic issues: once a week for 10 weeks, and then we will re-evaluate.
  • Chronic stress: 1 times a week until the stress subsides (read: your evil boss quits, your neighbors stop throwing parties at 3 a.m. or you start to notice you're handling stress better).

Bottom line: If acupuncture was the Magic Eraser of injury, the FDA would have found a way to standardize, package and sell acupuncture via a highly-produced pharmaceutical ad. But acupuncture cannot be sold in tiny packages because everyone is different. So, back to the short answer: I don’t know how long it will take to get back in the saddle, on the trail, doing lunges or back to Zumba. But what I do know: we will get you there.