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, test results and other interventions already tried, to make these judgements.
Sometimes treatments are needed every few days. For example if a woman going through IVF a thin uterus lining, we’ll need to boost blood supply. Once week won’t be enough, when she has only 2 to 3 weeks of ovarian stimulation. It also depends on the type of intervention I use. Electroacupuncture leading up to birth should be carried out every few days to build up the women’s endorphins. 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.
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 frequent 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 optimise your wellbeing.