Acupuncturist Questions Acupuncturist

How do you know if acupuncture is working?

I am a 29-year-old male. I am having acupuncture for my back pain. How do you know if acupuncture is working?

27 Answers

You feel better
Your pain degree is decreased or disappears.
The result for any type of back pain is great.
If you feel lighter, looser, and less pain that means it works.
If you are having physical pain, you should feel relief very quickly, and if you want it to last you should come in often, sometimes 3 times a week (for 2-3 weeks). If you don't feel any change it could mean that your issue is very chronic and has been there longer than you thought.
I treat back and neck pain almost daily, and have for years. You will know if acupuncture is working for your back pain if your back pain reduces about 5 seconds after the needles are put in. Pain is the fastest thing to get results for, and yes, should drop literally within seconds.
The pain may be less severe, you're able to do more activity, you can perform activity for longer periods of time. You may also be sleeping better, not waking up with as much pain, etc. Sometimes the effects are subtle, so it can be harder to tell right away as acupuncture does not work overnight, much like any other medial modality.
Well, the quick and obvious answer is reduced pain level, but it’s not always that simple. I tell my patients do not be concerned if you don’t experience pain reduction right away. Results may happen very slowly, over time and over a period of several visits. Too often, we are used to taking a pill to stop the pain. Medications, although very helpful and important to health and well- being, do not fix the problem but help to deaden nerve impulses leading to a perception of less pain. Acupuncture may take awhile to show results but it is a more permanent solution, one that heals at the root of the problem. Now, sometimes there is a more serious issue at hand, one that you should get checked out by your doctor. He or she may refer you to a chiropractor or a specialist to properly diagnose your condition. X-rays may reveal something that may require surgery or physical therapy. Even a simple backache can be a sign of something else entirely or the beginning of something that may require medical intervention. So getting x-rays, if the doctor sees fit, or an MRI will help to shed light as to what the next course of action should be in your treatment plan. All that being said, if it turns out to be a muscle or tendon problem, acupuncture can work terrifically, but how many visits it could take will depend upon the severity of the problem. In addition, how active or inactive you are, how well, if at all, you stretch and exercise, what you do for work (occupational hazards) will also determine how well you respond to acupuncture. Good luck!!!
Hello! Great question, which has a pretty variable answer.

For back pain specifically, we are obviously looking for a reduction in pain levels to know if treatments are working, be it from acupuncture or other modalities. You may notice a reduction in pain or an increased ability to perform tasks that the pain prevented you from doing before, like picking up heavy objects or driving for example. Some patients may notice that they have fewer episodes of pain for types of pain that tend to come and go as opposed to being more constant. Your sleep may improve if pain was a reason sleep was difficult. Acupuncture may be working, but pain levels may seem the same when we notice we can do more or have an easier time with sleep or even our mood has improved, this is why your acupuncturist does a really thorough intake of your history and what's going on in the body, because while back pain may seem localized to the back it does have an effect on other systems in the body.

The next level of this question is WHEN will these results happen, and this is very different from patient to patient. Some may notice results instantly, others it may take months of treatments before pain relief occurs, often this difference boils down to the type of pain: acute or chronic and the general health and commitment of the patient to make lifestyle adjustments as needed. It's easy to get frustrated if pain levels don't come down quickly, but it's also important to remember that acupuncture isn't unlike going to the gym - we might feel good after one session, but lasting changes occur with consistency and dedication. Thinking outside just the 'pain box' is also helpful to gauge results, because acupuncture helps the whole body heal, not just the part that's bothering us - we might notice improved sleep, improved mood, improved digestion, even skin clarity before we notice pain relief and that's simply
because those areas of health needed to come into balance first.


Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAC
Hi there!

Whilst acupuncture and all holistic therapies can feel like almost intangible results to some, or even get a bit worse before getting better, about 91% of my patients feel results within the very first treatment. Some feel tickling or itchiness (meaning the qi or energy is starting to flow better). Some feel super relaxed, kind of like a feeling of a high. Others just notice their pain lightens and softens, or even a combination of all of the above! It’s really important to have a connection to your practitioner. Their energy matters for your results to be optimal! Most all
of my patients would experience results within the first two or three sessions who’d not from the first. Try this #1 back pain stretch to find relief fast, and, please God, may you find improvement with acupuncture soon!
Thank you for your question,

Well, the simple answer is you feel better. If you’re not feeling better then you should discuss this with your acupuncturist as they may need to change their treatment plan. Or, you may need to find another acupuncturist. Any good healer shares this philosophy, they hope to work themselves out of a job for each patient...

Be well,

Dr. B
Depends on what you come in for. If your symptom is improved and you feel better overall, acupuncture is working for you.
Well. It's a broad question, but when acupuncture works, you should get pain relief with other related symptoms such as sciatica, muscle tension, and numbness, etc. Your range of motion will improve. You get less pain when sitting, standing, rotating your back.
You can expect reduced pain level or reduced frequency of pain.
Well, you should treat your body the same. When you first start doing acupuncture you'll notice bodily sensations more acutely, that is to say, you will be more aware of the little things you didn't notice before and more clued in to how your body is functioning overall. Your senses will be keener and more awakened
Good afternoon,

After receiving 2 or 3 acupuncture treatments, you should experience less pain (at least 20%) in your low back and more energy. If you do, that means acupuncture is working.

Have a great day,

Your symptoms should change/go away. You should feel super relaxed, almost like a stoned feeling, after treatments. We are not all created equally though... and if you have given a practitioner 3 treatments and seen zero improvement, then maybe find a new one to try. Or, it could be that something is physically out of alignment... and acupuncture alone won't fix that by itself.
Your acupuncturist should be able to obtain a feeling of qi in the needles that you feel in your body while on the table. It should feel heavy or warming or even a little electric at first. This is your clue that the protocol is doing its job and your body has been notified that there is a job to do, and your body has responded to that call.
If the back pain stopped, it means acupuncture is working, if not, it means that acupuncture isn't working.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has many ways to check your progress. Be it the pulse, tongue, eyes, and others.

The pain should be getting less severe. Use a scale of 1-10 (10 high) before and after each treatment. Over time the number should get smaller. If not change acupuncturist. Sometimes with back pain you also need a chiropractor.
Hello! Acupuncture is effective if there is a 10-20% percent decrease in pain after each treatment.
Many research studies already approved that acupuncture is an effective therapy for a wide range of conditions. Please go to the WHO website for your information.
If it's working, you should feel some relief of your pain. You may also find improvements in your overall wellbeing (improved sleep, digestion, mood, energy levels, etc.).

I will also note that you may feel improvement that lasts for a short time but then the pain returns. This is normal. Acupuncture has a cumulitive effect so as you continue with treatment the relief will last longer and longer. If you are not feeling any improvement within 5-8 treaments, try another acupuncturist or another style of acupuncture.
The back pain is less or gone
With pain conditions it's pretty simple: if the acupuncture is working you should either be experiencing reduced pain or the pain should be gone entirely. How long the pain stays away can be variable, but generally speaking as you receive more treatments your pain should be reduced or absent for longer and longer periods of time.

My usual caveat applies here: there are a lot of providers out there offering "acupuncture-like" services with training levels ranging from none to minimal. They often use what we refer to as "cookbook acupuncture" which, to be honest, rarely works.

To get the most out of acupuncture in any situation you really need to be seeing someone who is board certified in acupuncture or Chinese medicine and state licensed as an acupuncturist. These will be people who attended and graduated from schools specifically for Chinese medicine and will be in the best position to provide the most relief. If your provider isn't an L.Ac. or R.Ac. (and, outside California, they should also have an NCCAOM credential), you need to make a change. I suggest starting with the "Find a Practitioner" lookup at (NOTE: this only works outside CA. In CA, I'd suggest googling and looking for the L.Ac. credential).