How Should I Feel After My Acupuncture Treatment?
I’m asked this question a lot, and the answer is always the same: “It depends.”
But on what does it depend?
That is the real question. Well, it depends on many factors, including the kind of problem you’re being treated for.
Depending on what you’re being treated for, you might experience different types of reactions to the acupuncture treatment.
If you are being treated for a systemic problem, like migraines or ovarian fibroids, then you may experience a healing aggravation. This means your condition may appear to worsen or some other uncomfortable physical or emotional symptoms may arise, but these (as well as the original problem) will subside as your body works to heal itself. If you are being treated for a short-term, pain-related problem, then the likelihood of a healing aggravation is not as high.
Systemic problems include anything hormone-related or having anything to do with one of the various organ systems in the body. Examples are the cardiovascular system, the central nervous system, the emotional system, the urinary system, the digestive system, and the like. Because these systems are so complicated, often a problem related to one of the systems might take longer to heal.
When undergoing treatment for these types of problems, a person will often experience a healing aggravation, or healing crisis. This could mean you experience a rash, headaches, or even nausea. Sometimes, certain emotions such as anger, or weepiness and saddness, may overcome you.
These are all signs that your body is healing and correcting imbalances by releasing physical and emotional toxins that may have been held in the body. The healing aggravation occurs when the problem gets temporarily worse before getting better.
Depending on the severity of your health problem, you may experience positive results immediately, or the treatment might take some time. The length of time it takes to feel the healing results of the treatment may be anywhere from one treatment to six months of treatments.
I’ve seen many migraine patients who experienced relief with one treatment, and other migraine patients who didn’t experience complete pain relief for about six months or so after the treatment. In general, the more severe the health problem, and the longer you have had the problem, the longer it’s going to take to heal and establish permanent results.
Please remember that this is a general rule and, depending on other factors, even a longstanding, severe problem can sometimes respond quite well to acupuncture in just a few short weeks. I recently treated a man in his 50s for long-standing asthma and coughing that cleared up in three treatments. I generally tell people that it’ll take half as long as you’ve had the problem to completely heal it. But that is not to say that you won’t experience significant relief and benefits from your treatments long before this time period. It has been my experience that most people find significant relief in just three or four treatments, regardless of the length of time they’ve had the problem.
Treatment time will vary depending on what result we are trying to accomplish and the following additional factors:
1. How many needles are used?
Some forms of acupuncture may use only one or two needles placed strategically on specific points meant to elicit a constitutional balancing. Other treatments may use 20 to 30 needles or more. Depending on the strength of the various types of treatments, you may feel entirely different after one type of treatment than after another and get entirely different results. In fact, even if you had the same treatment for two consecutive weeks, you might feel different after each treatment, because the energy traveling through your acupuncture meridians is constantly shifting and changing.
2. How many treatments have you received?
In general, the more treatments you receive, the better results you are going to have. This is also true in terms of frequency. If you have been feeling very depressed and come in for acupuncture, I will probably recommend you have treatments twice a week. This is not to say that you won’t get as good a result if I only see you weekly, or twice monthly, but you will receive the benefit more quickly if you receive treatments more often. Most people receive a very nice benefit from the treatment after about eight to ten treatments, and then after that they will decide to let the frequency trail off to every other week, or once a month.
3. Which type of acupuncture is being used?
There are so many different types of acupuncture. Each type was “invented” by a different doctor, and most have proven to be quite successful. You could go to 20 different acupuncturists and receive 20 different types of treatments. The important thing is that you experience significant improvement and that you feel comfortable with the acupuncturist and your treatments. Comparing types of acupuncture treatments is like comparing apples with asparagus. Each practitioner you see will tell you something different.
4. How much toxicity is stored in your tissues and cells?
Most people living in our culture do not eat and drink only perfectly healthy food. Also, if you live in a large city, you are breathing air that is not too pure. So for the average patient I see, there is quite a bit of detoxification that goes along with the acupuncture treatment. Often, people will report headaches, changes in bowel and urination habits, and emotional shifts. If you are someone who rarely expresses yourself emotionally, you might find that after receiving regular acupuncture treatments, you are more apt to say what is on your mind. On the other hand, if you tend to have an explosive streak in you, you might tend to become more calm and relaxed, as you detoxify.
Above all, acupuncture allows the body to heal itself by releasing toxins and allowing a free flow of energy that helps you reestablish harmony in your body and in your life.
5. How much anxiety or stress are you under?
If you are a relaxed person and not stressed out, if you are not subject to worry and anxiety, and if you sleep well, then the acupuncture will relax you on a much deeper level. If you are someone who is under stress and has anxiety, then the acupuncture will still relax you, but it will last only a few days. The treatments compound themselves, so that the more acupuncture you receive, the longer and deeper your relaxation response will be.
6. What is your diet like?
If you have a healthy diet for your body type, the acupuncture will work more quickly. In fact, many of my patients who are balanced in terms of diet and nutrition experience a spike in their energy and better sleep after each acupuncture treatment.
7. How much water and other fluids do you drink to keep your body hydrated and flushing out toxins?
If you have ever received a massage, you probably remember that they usually give you a glass of water after the treatment. This is because your body will naturally release toxins after a massage. So, too, with acupuncture. It’s important to drink enough fluid to keep your body’s toxins moving out of you. It’s also a good idea to drink electrolyte water, so that the fluids you are drinking are more easily assimilated and you re-establish your sodium, potassium, and other minerals and micro-nutrients.
8. Do you exercise regularly?
Exercise is essential to effective treatment. If you exercise daily, your acupuncture treatment will feel better and you will get more out of it. Acupuncture gives your body a head start on the path to wellness, balancing your hormones and your neurotransmitters; exercise does the same thing, so they act in tandem.
In summary, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of eating right, exercising, getting a lot of fluids into your system, and learning to relax—not only for your health in general, but also for increasing the effectiveness of your acupuncture.
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How Should I Feel After My Acupuncture?