I use the word ‘dose’ rather than number of sessions because in effect that’s what we need to consider for treatment effectiveness. It’s like taking a pill: “Would 500mg of a painkiller be enough every 4 hours for my headache, or can I take that amount once a day?”. As an acupuncturist we have to make that call every day for our clients. But we also have to balance that with affordability. I look at severity, how chronic a condition is, medical history of the patient, physical examination and other interventions already tried, to make these judgements.
More recently I’ve introduced a new type of electroacupuncture into my practice based on nerve anatomy and chemicals released by the nerves and brain (neuropeptides) and this requires more treatment closer together – every few days. We know this because research has shown that the beneficial healing soup of neuropeptides generated by electroacupuncture starts being metabolised out of the body in 3 to 5 days. So before this happens completely, we need to boost those chemicals again. The up side of this though is that resolution of a problem should be quicker. This can be important when clients are taking time off work and need to return as quick as possible.
Clients are aghast when I explain that in Traditional Chinese Medicine hospitals in China acupuncture might be given daily or even twice a day for a number of days or even weeks. Sessions every week are considered quite a lot in the UK, yet if we consider the amount of time with all the needles in place is on average about 30 minutes, this represents 0.003 % of the week. A very small pill! So if I suggest more frequent sessions I’m making sure your ‘dose’ of acupuncture gives you the most effective intervention necessary for you to regain your health.