Acupuncturist Questions Acupuncture

How often should I go for acupuncture?

I have chronic back, and I currently go get acupuncture at least once a month. But, do you think I should be going more often if I'm experiencing chronic pain?

38 Answers

If you came to see me, I would recommend you come back after the first treatment in 3 days for 2nd treatment. Thereafter, I would want to see you either 2x weekly or 1x weekly for some length of time--at least until your symptoms go away for a few weeks. If you are experiencing pain, you should probably go more.
Depends on severity of your symptoms usually 2 times a week for 3 weeks
Evidence-based treatment guidelines Course of Treatment Based on Peer Reviewed Clinical Coverage Guidelines Devised by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), National Coverage Determination for Acupuncture and Foundation for Acupuncture Research. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture. Normally an initial course of treatment consists of 12 to 18 treatments over a 4 to 6-week period, depending on complicating factors. For acute conditions, fewer treatments may be necessary to observe a therapeutic effect and to obtain complete recovery. For chronic conditions, such as in this case, and in conditions with complicating factors, extended treatment is recommended to observe response to treatment. As in most types of therapy, the earlier the patient receives treatment, the greater the probability of recovery, and the shorter the time to recovery. Acupuncture is commonly utilized in chronic conditions because of effectiveness in pain management and limited treatment options. However, it should be noted that acupuncture and electro-acupuncture can lead to complete recovery in many NMS conditions when it is offered in the acute and sub-acute stages of injury, particularly when used in conjunction with other therapeutic interventions, such as range of motion (ROM) and strengthening exercises and manual manipulation of the soft tissue. Acupuncture or electroacupuncture are rarely performed as a single treatment, but are usually prescribed and performed as a series, or "course of treatments." Thus, treatment planning requires a recommendation for the number, frequency, and duration of treatments that is appropriately based upon the nature and extent of the injuries and the prognosis for a progressive and timely recovery from those injuries. Severe injuries, multiple injuries, metabolic disorders, and other complicating factors may require more frequent treatments over a longer duration of time. For example, while some multiple injuries can be treated simultaneously, others must be treated independently and sequentially, requiring increased treatment frequency. Recommended Additional Course of Treatment A conservative recommendation of a series of 12 additional visits are recommended. Treatment based on medical necessity shall be determined at time of service based on subjective complaints and observations. Re-Evaluation: A detailed or focused re-evaluation designed to determine the patient's progress and response to treatment should be conducted at the end of each course of treatment. Additionally, a brief assessment of the patient’s response to each treatment should be noted after each treatment is completed, and again before the next one is started, and recorded in progress notes (e.g., SOAP notes). When a patient's condition is not responding to treatment for a period of 2 to 3 weeks, a more thorough re-evaluation should be conducted immediately to determine if the condition is different or more serious than the initial diagnosis had indicated and/or whether the condition requires further diagnostic testing and/or referral to other diagnostic or treatment specialists. Follow-up courses of treatment may be similar in frequency and duration to the initial course of treatment. However, one of the goals of any treatment plan should be to reduce the frequency of treatments to the point where maximum therapeutic benefit continues to be achieved while encouraging more active self-therapy, such as strengthening and range-of-motion (ROM) exercises, and rehabilitative exercises. The frequency of continued treatment generally depends upon the severity and duration of the condition; treatment benefits are generally stronger and last longer as a condition moves from acute towards complete resolution and as the patient takes a more active role in his or her recovery. •Acute - 2-3 treatments per week for 4 weeks, decreasing frequency as symptoms resolve and are reduced. Reevaluate after 12th visit.•Sub-Acute - 2-3 treatments per week for up to four weeks. 1-2 treatments per week thereafter for up to 6-8 weeks. This is also thetime when a rehabilitation exercise program is usually introduced. Reevaluate after 12th visit.•Chronic – 12 visits, 1-2 treatments per week for 6-8 weeks. Reevaluate after 12th visit.•Recurrent/Flare-Up - 1-2 treatments per week for 6-8 weeks. Reevaluate after 12th visit.Acupuncture is considered medically necessary for the following indications: •As a treatment for acute or chronic pain, including postoperative, musculoskeletal, neurogenic, vascular, craniomandibular, andmalignant pain; OR,•For postoperative nausea and vomiting (including children); OR,•For morning sickness associated with pregnancy; OR,•For chemotherapy-associated nausea and vomitingThe Acupuncture Clinical Guidelines/Plan of Care Recommendations - Peer Reviewed: 1. Hayes Directory. Acupuncture for Pain. January 20, 2005.2. Hayes Directory. Acupuncture and Acupressure for the Treatment of Nausea and Vomiting. June 20, 2005.3. Hayes Directory. Acupuncture for Treatment of Addictive Behavior. May 31, 2005. Government Agencies, Professional and Medical Organizations: 1. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), National Coverage Determination for Acupuncture (30.3)2. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), National Coverage Determination for Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia (30.3.1)3. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), National Coverage Determination for Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis (30.3.2)4. Council of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Associates (CAOMA), Foundation for Acupuncture Research. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture. Evidence-based treatment guidelines. Calistoga (CA): Council of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Associates (CAOMA); 2004 Dec.
Yes, in my opinion you should be going more frequently. Finally, a scholarly Journal has come out that addresses the way treatments should be administered, the time between treatments, etc. This journal compares the way acupuncture is practiced in the United States compared to how it is practiced in China, and addresses how it has become watered down in the United States compared to the traditional way it should be performed. As a general rule of thumb, if you are going to have 10 treatments, they should be done over a course of no more than 20 days in order to receive the best and quickest benefit.
If the pain is bad I suggest to go at least 3 times per week for 4 weeks, though your acupuncturist should work with you on your treatment plan (frequency and duration of visits)
Everyone responds differently to treatments, and every situation is different as well. Most people I treat with chronic back pain will come to me a few times per week for about 4 weeks. Then they come in for maintenance when needed. I always say, do not wait until you feel pain again. So listen to your body. If once a month is working for you, then keep it at once per month. If you need more treatment, then go every 3 weeks, or every two weeks. Just listen to what your body is telling you. I hope this helps!
Absolutely!!! I advise patients who are in constant pain to see me at least once a week. If you cannot afford once a week, then every other week. It's important to maintain continuity in order to maintain stability of your condition. In addition, it is imperative to do daily stretching and maybe yoga or tai chi to begin to strengthen and condition your muscles and tendons. And it cannot be said enough to hydrate your muscles, try to avoid caffeine, or at least cut down. Extra weight, especially in the abdomen, can really put a strain on the back (and everything else for that matter) so maintaining a healthy weight may be the first tangible thing you can do to start you on the road to recovery. Good luck!!!
Once a month is not enough, I suggest to take a course of 10-12 treatments once or twice a week, then take a break
Ultimately, that decision is up to you and your acupuncturist. When I see patients for chronic pain, I usually start them with weekly treatments until the pain feels improvement that lasts about one week (until their next treatment). At that point, I start working to decrease treatment treatment frequency to bi-weekly, then once every 3 weeks, etc. If you feel that treatment once per month is not providing you with lasting relief, try increasing the frequency. If you feel the acupuncture isn't helping at all, try a new acupuncturist or a new style of acupuncture.
Yes, once a month definitely is not enough. I think in your case, you should get at least once a week, until your pain released.
Yes go more for quicker results.
It may help to go more often if your pain is continual. I recommend once a week for 4 times and then start moving the appointments out a bit. Your body is trying to mend a chronic condition and acupuncture is assisting in that healing. Sometimes it takes a few treatments, close together to get more relief. Good luck!
Depending what you are also doing in between your acupuncture sessions, I would suggest at least every other week so the treatments can help reduce the chronic pain for longer periods of time. As long as you are also doing other helpful things recommended by your practitioner.
Yes, you should go more often until you see progress in relieving the pain.

Susan Friedrich
Simple answer is yes
I am a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and I treat neck and back pain with acupuncture and other methods. To answer your question accurately would require more information. Such as the condition of your back, the problems you may have- degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, hardware from surgery, etc. However, in general, a therapy should be giving you some improvements over time for you to keep doing it. Acupuncture is no exception. Sometimes, people have such a back problem that they may need more help- that is when point injection therapy can be very useful. Some Acupuncturists do point injection therapy, and it may be a good idea for you to try it. I see great results with it.
I usually tell my patients with chronic lower back pain that they will begin feeling consistent pain relief going 2x a week for about 3-4 weeks. Of course you will get slight if not major relief after a treatment, but to maintain the effects I would recommend 2x a week. I hope this helps and best of luck towards your recovery!
This depends on how long you've been receiving acupuncture for your chronic back pain. I recommend you consult with your acupuncturist to determine the right treatment plan for you.
Sorry to hear about your chronic back pain. For acupuncture to be most effective and see results, usually for acute conditions we recommend 2-3 times per week for a few weeks and then we taper to 1x/week. For chronic conditions it is a bit more complicated, but 1x/month is definitely not enough. Each individual and situation is different and will take a longer time to see results. At least once a week is recommended for a few months and once you begin to experience relief, then we can move it down. So for chronic conditions, at the beginning one may need to go in 1-2x/week for the first few months and once they begin to see results, treatments can be tapered down.
Hope this helps!

Dr. Bita Yadidi, L.Ac., DAOM
Chronic low back usually responds best to frequent treatment. I generally recommend twice weekly for 6 to 8 weeks. Following that a decision needs to be made based in the outcome of treatment. If the results satisfactory then the patient should stay on some maintenance.
Yes, I think so. One acupuncture session usually effective and can last for hours, 1 day, or 2 days at the beginning. It depends on your reaction to the acupuncture.
I am not sure when you started your therapy for your chronic back pain. However, acupuncture has a cumulative effect so if you are going only once a month, it might not be enough to treat your condition. If you have just started therapy, it is not enough. I usually recommend to start with twice a week for a month and then decrease the frequency based on the patient's
response. If you have been going to acupuncture for years for the same condition and you have some relief for a few weeks than you are doing the right thing. If you are getting relief for one week only, then once a week might be a wiser choice until your relief's time increases. Frequency is ultimately based on the patient's response!

Alexandre Hillairet, DAOM.
Generally speaking, 1-2 treatments per week is recommended for chronic pain. Once pain relief has been achieved (typically between 8 and 10 treatments), frequency of treatment can begin to decrease accordingly. Eventually, coming once a month or so for maintenance will be plenty :)

Many blessings,

Caitria Thiele, LAc MSOM
Normally patients should have acupuncture treatment at least once per week. For some severe cases, patients may need to have acupuncture treatment twice per week.
One treatment per month is only for maintain and prevention, not for treatment.
Hi there,
Always consult your primary care physician before seeking other treatment. Having said that, yes if you have chronic pain you should go as often per treatment plan. See your local acupuncturist to see what causes your back pain. In TCM there is a pattern for everything.
Most of my chronic pain patients are recommended to see me 2 times a week for the first 3 weeks and then we do a re-examination. Then, we taper to once a week and so on and so forth, depending on the patient’s progress.
Absolutely. Once a month is for when you are healed and weaning off of acupuncture. I see patients twice a week until their pain is down and stays down between treatments. Then I go to once a week, then once every other week, and so on. The trick is for the pain to stay low or gone between treatments before extending the time between.
Definitely, I usually tell patients that they should go back for another treatment when the relief from the previous treatment begins to wear off. That's when you know the body's circulation of qi and blood is beginning to stagnate again, which causes pain. Circulation is health and the more you can get acupuncture, the better you will feel.
Chronic pain is hard. It takes many years to get it there and can take a while to get it back in shape. I've seen some once a week for a year before we can back off on treatments. Some much less. Everyone is different, different constitution, situation, trauma, health, etc. Be patient and work with your practitioner. Get dietary recommendations, herbs, exercises and more to help you regain your health and strength.
Yes for any chronic pain, 1-2x weekly and can last up to a few months.
The frequency of treatment varies for each patient. If you are experiencing chronic pain and feel 1x/mo is not helping to improve your symptoms, ask your practitioner if you can increase the frequency until your symptoms decrease and become more manageable.
It all depends. Once a week, twice a week, three times a week for a while is very common.
For pain and chronic pain patients, the interval between treatments is partly dependent on the level of pain the patient is experiencing. If we use the standard 0 to 10 pain score - where 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst possible pain a patient can imagine - my general rule of thumb is: I see patients who score 5 or less once a week until the pain is either resolved or consistently around 1-2, then we talk about maintenance.

For patient scoring between 5 and 7 or so, I like to get them in twice a week for two to three weeks. This lets us get the pain knocked down to below 5 and then we can back off to weekly until we're at a place where, again, we can start thinking about maintenance intervals.

For pain levels over 7, I try to get patients to come in three days in a row for two to three weeks. After this we evaluate the overall pain levels and decide if we can go to two days a week for a week or two or if the patient is ready to go to weekly treatments.

Studies of acupuncture in chronic pain almost always show a dose dependency. This means, to a point, more acupuncture sessions provide superior results. Of course, we have to balance this against the individual patient's financial situation/tolerances. But, in general, if your pain is severe, once a month probably isn't going to get you where you want to be.

You may be able to return to a once a month schedule after an intensive set of sessions brings your pain under control. This is the other big advantage to acupuncture: it's a front loaded process, but saves money in the long run - once we get things under control and start spreading treatments out to find the optimal maintenance interval for a given individual.

For the best results, you need to make sure you're seeing an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. To find one near you, go to and click their "Find a Practitioner" link. If your pain is fairly severe, probably best if you can find someone who specializes in pain management
When treating a chronic condition, results can happen more quickly, go deeper and last longer when a person commits to a series. This could be 1-2 sessions a week for 4-6 weeks. After the series has ended, then once a month could be part of a maintenance program.
Studies and clinical experiences told me that acupuncture had accumulated effects. In an acute case, twice a week, in maintenance cases, once a month.
If you are experiencing chronic pain and you are in pain in between your sessions then I think you should go more often. Maybe once a week or once every two weeks. I would start by going once every two weeks and if you are in pain in between sessions then move up to once a week. After a few weeks you should notice it gets stays good longer, then you can lengthen the time between sessions.

Use your body's response and recovery time as a guide and discuss it with your practitioner.
For chronic back pain, it is best to see acupuncture doctor at least 3-4 times a week for first 2 weeks then based on your pain level, you can reduce to once a week.