How Long Does Acupuncture Take to Work?

How Long Does Acupuncture Take to Work



Anyone seeking acupuncture or tuina treatment might be asking themselves how long it will take to feel the benefits of treatment in order to weigh up the potential costs involved. In this post, I explain some of the factors that I take into account when advising how many acupuncture or tuina appointments a client would benefit from receiving.

These are the timescales and frequencies of treatment that are needed to give acupuncture and tuina an adequate opportunity to help. You will likely notice the relaxing and restorative qualities of treatment in your first few acupuncture sessions, but lasting change may require more sustained attention.

In all cases, I recommend that you get in touch for a personalised assessment.




What Outcomes Can You Expect From Acupuncture and Tuina Treatment?


“We are Gardeners, not Mechanics”


The process of acupuncture treatment for chronic conditions is much more like tending a garden than it is tightening a few loose screws.

Through the treatment process, we seek to remove any ‘weeds’ that may be suppressing healthy growth and seek to ‘water’ any ‘plants’ that are flagging. Given time, this will result in a well-balanced and healthy garden, but the process does need time to work.

The benefit that you feel from treatment will depend on the severity of your problem, as well as the extent to which you can make lifestyle changes off the couch.

In Chinese medicine, each client has their own unique expression of imbalance so there is no cut-and-dry rule as to how people will respond to treatment. Some people will feel much better after their first session, but for others it could take five or six sessions before they really feel the benefits.

There will always be exceptions to the schedules that I’ve laid out in this article, but you can be sure that I will always put my utmost effort into providing the most compassionate and effective treatment possible.

Read More Here About How Acupuncture Approaches Treatment



What Kind of Lifestyle Changes Will You Make? (THE BIG QUESTION)

This is often a crucial question when it comes to understanding how quickly you are likely to see changes from acupuncture and tuina treatment.

If you are taking 2 steps forward each time that you come for treatment, but 2 or even 3 steps backwards between sessions then it is clear what kind of outcome you might expect. If on the other hand, you are taking 2 steps forward with your treatment, and a further step forward in terms of lifestyle changes then the maths is again fairly simple.

In general, clients will come to see me once a week or once a fortnight and that is not always going to be enough. You will need to do some work on your own if you want to achieve the full benefits that Chinese medicine can offer.

My lifestyle advice is tailored to each client depending on how much or how little they are doing when they come to see me. In all cases, it comes down to balance, as some people would benefit from doing a little more of some things and some from doing a little less of other things.

During your initial consultation, I will take a detailed look at your current lifestyle habits and advise on the areas that I think will benefit you the most in terms of your goals.


A Recent Problem


Is This a Recent Injury/Condition that Needs Immediate Help?

If so, this is what I would refer to as an acute condition and I recommend that you seek to address the problem quickly before it has a chance to become more fixed.

Here, I am thinking of clients who might have put their back out lifting something heavy, twisted their ankle, or woken up with a stiff and painful neck. I’m also talking about things like the onset of a migraine where we could support the immediate problem, but where getting things under control would be a longer-term project.

In cases like these, I would expect you to experience relief after your first acupuncture appointment, but a second appointment would generally be advised to get you comfortably on the path to feeling better. Depending on the severity of the problem, it could take 2 to 4 acupuncture or tuina sessions over the course of 2-3 weeks to address the issue. I would expect you to feel good improvement after your first sessions, and the following sessions would be to deal with any remaining problems.

Treating acute injuries to the muscles and joints in this way with acupuncture and tuina is a great way to prevent them from returning as issues later in life.



An Initial Consultation & Treatment to address the acute symptoms

Then, a Follow-Up Appointment within 5 days to support the initial treatment

Or, in more severe cases, a 3-Block booking to support the initial treatment


A Long-Term Problem


Is This A Problem That You Have Been Living With for Months or Years?

Here, I am referring to clients that may be living with long-term pain issues or who have had long-term digestive problems. I am also referring to clients that have experienced long-term tiredness – especially those living with Chronic Fatigue or Post-Viral syndrome. I would also include long-term migraine sufferers, women with complex menstrual issues, women with perimenopausal issues, and the majority of issues with emotional regulation that clients seek support for.

Given the nature of acupuncture and tuina practice in the UK, the majority of my clients are seeking help for a chronic condition.

Given the long-term nature of these issues, it is likely that treatment will need to carry on for a bit longer before the full benefits of acupuncture and tuina will be felt. You will likely notice the calming and regenerative nature of treatment after your first appointment, but it could take 5 to 6 weekly sessions to reach a tipping point at which things are clearly moving in a positive direction.

In some cases, it could take 10 or more sessions to receive the full benefits of treatment.



Initial consultation & treatment followed by two 3-Block bookings

In many cases, a further 3-Block booking may be needed


Managing Long-Term Problems


Do You Require Ongoing Support with Acupuncture and Tuina?

Many clients discontinue treatment once we have addressed their original complaint, but keep acupuncture in mind if the problem flares up again.

In some cases, however, people living with a chronic condition may require ongoing support. I have some clients that I see weekly, but it is more usual that clients will need to come bi-weekly or monthly to maintain the benefits of acupuncture and tuina treatment.


A treatment schedule as described above for treating chronic problems

Followed by, ongoing support every 2-4 weeks



Are You Seeking Support and Balance in Your Life?

Many clients find that acupuncture and tuina-massage are useful for dealing with the stresses and strains of their everyday lives.

These might manifest as general tiredness, digestive problems, muscle stiffness, headaches or other such niggles that make their day-to-day life that much more difficult. Here acupuncture and tuina can be a great support in easing these problems before they develop into anything more serious.

In these cases, I would generally recommend that you come for 4 weekly sessions so that we can shift any underlying imbalances that are causing problems. Then, depending on how you respond to treatment, we would generally switch to monthly or quarterly appointments in order to provide ongoing support.



Initial consultation & treatment followed by a 3-Block booking

Then, monthly or quarterly sessions to maintain the benefits of treatment








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Andrew Wormald

Acupuncture, Tuina Massage & Qigong Specialist

Andrew is a lifelong practitioner of traditional self-cultivation practices. This journal is a space to share insights and information with like-minded people.

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