Each treatment takes about an hour. Acupuncture is usually given in a series of treatments. Since each person is unique, the number of treatments will vary. The determining factors include the type of conditions, whether the conditions is chronic or acute, and the individual response to the treatment.
It is almost impossible to predict how a patient will respond to acupuncture. Very occasionally, one treatment is all that is required, whereas other people may need a number of treatments to gain the same result for the same disease. In general most people, and their problems, do not respond magically to one treatment, and between 5 and 10 teatment sessions may be required in order to obtain the best results from acupuncture.
Acupuncture usually works in stages. The first 2 or 3 treatments represent a process of "understanding the needs of the patient", and are therefore a sort of experiment designed to assess the specific requirements for that person in that particular condition. Some people respond to classical body or ear acupuncture, whereas others respond better to acupuncture with electricity or moxabition. This partially reflects the skill of the acupuncturist in the use of specific techniques, but it also represents the fact that the body responds in a slightly different way to different stimuli.
If there has been no response to treatment after the first 5 sessions, then it is doubtful whether any response will occur. However, sometimes improvement may be very delayed and symptoms may not clear until the treatment ceased. Occasionally patients who have been abandoned, with no improvement after three weeks, will suddenly find improvement some weeks after cessation of acupuncture.
Although in China acupuncture is given daily, acupuncturists in the West tend to treat people on a weekly basis. After 10 years of practice in the West, we notice that the best plan is twice treatments in the first 2 weeks then followed by weekly basis.
Many clinical reports claim that acupuncture can have a curative effect in the treatment of conditions like acute injuries, but there is no evidence to support that acupuncture can reverse the damaged structure, like osteoarthritis, to normal. Although majority of patients get a long-term relief of the symptoms after acupuncture, it doesn't mean that their bodies have already gone back to normal, the problems they suffered before will possible recur later on. The traditional Chinese approach is to attempt to maintain the patient in a state of health, and regular one-monthly treatment patterns for those who with chronic problems, like osteoarthritis, may therefore be justified. However, for most people who with non-chronic conditions, we usually treat them when symptoms recur.
Sometimes the patient may experience a temporary worsening of symptoms due to acupuncture; this response to treatment and in general is a good sign, usually only lasting for a day or two and being followed by improvement.
After an initial evaluation the acupuncturist should provide you with a treatment plan that includes the modalities to be used as well as the frequency and duration of treatment.