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How Do You Know When Acupuncture is Working?

Many patients visit my clinic as a last ditch effort for their health. They’ve seen their primary physician, one or many specialists and possibly other integrative care practitioners before they decide to give acupuncture a shot. By this time, their symptoms may have been present anywhere between 6 months to several decades. At this point, their condition is clinically considered “chronic”.

Acupuncture isn’t a magic pill. There are times when it can produce almost miraculous results, but those are generally the exception, not the rule. You can’t expect a chronic condition of several years to resolve in one or two sessions. Acupuncture works cumulatively just like strength training or learning a new language. The frequency and length of treatment varies from patient to patient. And while the primary symptoms might not abate in the first few treatments, there are other markers you can look for to know when acupuncture is working for you.

Signs that acupuncture is working:

You’re less stressed

Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies. Research on the relationship between mental/emotional stress and physical health has shown that increased emotional stress can result in varying issues from poor surgical outcomes to a decrease in immune system functioning.

Stress relief is one of the first noticeable side effects of acupuncture treatments. Patients often exclaim how relaxed they feel after a treatment, or how stress related ailments such as TMJ (jaw) pain or anxiety are greatly reduced after visiting my office. I can safely say that the majority of ailments I see in my clinic are exacerbated by stress. Therefore lowering the patient’s stress level often brings patient’s pain levels down drastically.

You’re sleeping better

This is a fan favorite sign that acupuncture is working. Often, new patients report that their sleep is “just fine” in their initial intake, only exclaiming a few treatments later that they’re “sleeping so much better!” They are so used to their poor sleeping pattern that they don’t even realize that a quality night’s sleep is available to them.

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. When we are sleeping our bodies regulate our hormones, repair damaged tissue, form new pathways in our brain and trigger growth and development. Research has shown that persistent sleeplessness can lead to chronic disease later in life.

You’re more energetic

This one goes hand in hand with better sleep. When we spend more of our nighttime hours enjoying quality, restorative sleep, we wake feeling more refreshed and have more energy to go about our day. Fatigue is rarely a patient’s #1 reason for coming to my clinic, but it’s one of the most common complaints I hear from new patients.

While acupuncture is naturally relaxing (many patients take a nap on the treatment table), it’s normal to feel a surge of energy in the days following treatment. This energy isn’t like a caffeine buzz though, it’s more of an awareness in your body and increased motivation to complete tasks.

You’re digesting better

Acupuncture is all about creating movement. Illness arises when substances such as blood, lymph fluid and qi (energy) become stagnant within the body. By increasing the circulation of those substances, the body has the ability to nourish all of its organs and tissues and can begin the process of healing.

Acupuncture treatments are geared towards moving things within the body and therefore things tend to move. If your digestion tends to be a bit sluggish, you might find that your bowel movements happen on a more regular basis (pun intended) after receiving acupuncture. Conversely, if your digestion tends to be on the more frequent or erratic side, you might find that acupuncture relaxes the smooth muscle in your colon, resulting in less spasms, pain and frequent trips to the bathroom.

Acupuncture at work

Noticing these positive changes in your body means that acupuncture is working for you. Stay strong and stick with your treatment plan. Complying with any homework assignments such as dietary therapy, herbs, supplements or lifestyle modifications that are prescribed for you will help accelerate the healing process and get you back to optimal health before you know it.

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