Determining Prognosis: How Many Treatments Will I Need?

There is a formula I use for understanding how Chinese Medicine might work for you. Sometimes called a prognosis, this is how I answer the common question; “How many acupuncture treatments will it take to effectively treat my condition?” 

Like all important questions, the right answer is slightly complex. Here are the things to consider.

  1. Severity of the complaint 

    The more severe it is, the longer it will take to eliminate or transform it.

  2. Type of complaint: acute or chronic (more on this below

    What caused or is causing it? 

  3. Was there an injury or maybe it’s an internal medicine imbalance? Maybe it’s a combination (many problems are).

  4. Proper diagnosis of the root issue 

    Example: You think you have joint pain but it’s actually a neurological issue. It’s important to re-evaluate. 

  5. Your age and general health 

    This is important because healthy tissues heal faster, and the older we get the harder it is to ‘bounce back’.

  6. What kind of patient are you? 

    Are you willing to take supplements, herbal formulas or do other prescribed therapies? Maybe you’re more the type to ‘experiment’ with testing one modality at a time? One of these types of patients is typically going to get better much faster. Can you guess which one? 

Sometimes patients who don’t know what to expect unknowingly set their expectations too high. For instance, shouldn’t just one treatment cure what ails you? Sure, we have all heard of those one treatment success stories, but that is not the way it usually works. It takes work and it takes time. If you want to get better faster you may have to do some of the work. Otherwise, you may actually have to come in more often for acupuncture.

If you’re a patient who does all the things they are capable of doing, returning once a week should be enough to get satisfactory results. If not, coming in 2-3 times per week is more realistic. Also with newer health issues (like acute pain situations), more treatments per week might be more appropriate. For chronic pain, meaning over 3 months duration, consistency is the first consideration. 

Now let’s discuss how long. For someone who suffered with an issue for a year before coming in for acupuncture, a solid month with multiple visits per week totaling up to 12 visits is a good starting place. Why? That calculation is approximately the number of months with the issue equal to the number of visits needed to get some lasting results. Ideally, putting the work in over that shorter amount of time gains the traction necessary to get results. If you have been living with an issue for years, you would translate that number of years into the same number of treatment weeks. Then as we discussed you would probably need multiple visits per week. So if you have been dealing with a certain pain pattern for 9 years, that can be translated to 9 months of regular treatments to really get the results you want. Of course these are just some very general guidelines. As you can see, the math is not a perfect fit and there are variables.

Know who you are and where you stand when considering variables in the numbered section. Acupuncturists want to under-promise and over-deliver. Often patients do get better faster than we calculate. That is the fun part of our medicine. Over the years I have heard a lot of patients say things like; “I don’t know if it was because of the acupuncture or if it was because I was taking the herbs and supplements, or if it was because I’ve been eating healthier. But something seems to have helped.” Ding! Ding! Ding! That’s the million dollar answer. It’s multifactorial. I don’t have all the solutions, but I promise you if you are willing to get on track with a program, I can really help out quite a lot. 

For those who decide to just get one or two acupuncture treatments, please know that you might not have really given it a fair shot. Just as you wouldn’t expect to go to one or two yoga classes and then be flexible and fit, the same logical thinking applies with trying acupuncture. Just as all fitness practices are different, so too are acupuncturists and their styles of treatment. Sometimes you just have to shop around to find the right fit for you. Then, sometimes you just have to be patient and put in the work. 

If you want a fair assessment of your case I will be happy to give you a rough prognosis based on what you tell me. Feel free to drop me a call or email and we can chat. After a couple of visits, my ability to give a prognosis improves based on how you respond. In any case, hopefully this information has already been useful for you. 

Kevi Keenom