I tried acupuncture once… and it didn’t work

acupuncture didn't work for me

By Dr. Scott GravesNatural Blaze

“I tried acupuncture and it didn’t work for me.”

This is something that I hear from time to time and is frustrating every time I hear it.  Acupuncture is wonderfully amazing, restorative and healing.  So, when I first became a physician, it was hard for me to hear this.  This was discouraging until I started to question what that meant for each person and what their specific experience was.  When I asked deeper questions, I was able to discover exactly why it didn’t work for that person.  I now ask three follow up questions with people if I ever hear this response.  

1 – Do you mind if I ask what you were being treated for?

2 – How many acupuncture sessions did you receive?

3 – Did the practitioner do anything else besides acupuncture?

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When I ask the first question, more than 90% of the time, a person would say they were being treated for a chronic condition that they have had for longer than a year and in some cases for decades.   I have seen acupuncture clear up certain health conditions and pain miraculously in a very short period of time, even in some cases after just one treatment.  This may be the exception though and not the rule.  However, if you have had a chronic health problem that took a long time to develop and that has sustained itself for years, it is not reasonable at all to assume one acupuncture treatment is going to fix the problem.  Most people feel subjectively better the more acupuncture treatments they receive.  Additionally, practitioners may not always communicate treatment objectives properly and what people should expect.  Often times I will tell people that a chronic condition may require 6-12 treatments of acupuncture (along with other things) in order to see significant progress.  

When I ask the second question, the response I get much of the time is that people only went for 1 or 2 sessions.  Some people seriously expect a chronic condition to disappear after one session and then are disappointed and disillusioned when that doesn’t happen.  My rebuttal to this is usually light-hearted and logical.  I ask, “When you go to work out at the gym for the first time, do you expect to look like Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) after going to the gym one time or even going to the gym once every two weeks?”  Or I ask, “With physical therapy after recovering from injury, do people go one time and do the physical therapy exercises one time and notice complete and full improvement?”  Obviously not.  

Acupuncture, like working out and physical therapy, builds on itself and often times in China people will receive acupuncture once every other day until a condition clears (along with doing other things to heal as well).  If you have done acupuncture one time and didn’t see an improvement, it does not mean that acupuncture does not work.   Acupuncture has worked well for so many people, but it should not be expected to work the same way for all people all the time, nor should it be expected to clear up a chronic condition with just one treatment.  

With regards to the third question, acupuncture should almost never be the only thing one does to heal.  Many Chinese practitioners today only focus on acupuncture (and there is nothing wrong with this), but a Chinese doctor in the past focused on anything to help people heal including removing toxins internally and externally, diet, food therapy, herbs, massage, tai chi (movement and exercise) and meditative practices to help people to heal on all levels in the body.  For example, if you have inflammation in your body and don’t remove the dietary sources of inflammation in the body, acupuncture, herbs or other things may not be nearly as effective as they could be. Other factors need to be addressed at the same time acupuncture is received.  

If by some chance you have had many (6+) acupuncture sessions and have still seen little to no effect, this still does not mean acupuncture doesn’t work.  It is restoring balance internally even if it has little to no effect on your particular condition.  Or it just simply may mean that it was not what you particularly needed.  Everyone is different and may need different things.  But how else would you know unless you gave it a chance?  

I can only recall one time I have ever heard of many acupuncture sessions not working.  In this persons case, they were full of heavy metals (which were not addressed) and their condition was ultra chronic already.  In other cases, people come into the clinic, and it becomes apparent that their health issue has a primary emotional root, which is a pillar of Chinese medicine.  Emotional root causes exist in a field greater than the physical and electrical (acupuncture) levels in the body.  If you do not treat this root cause, healing may not be likely to occur or may be minimal to moderate.  

Acupuncture is one of the most remarkable healing tools I have ever seen.  People who have experienced the wonder of acupuncture usually rave about it.  Every week I see small miracles and healing occur when the body is given a change to be balanced using this wonderful tool.  Yet, it needs to be given a proper chance to work with multiple sessions and is best when used with other healing modalities at the same time.  It also should be understood that deeper healing work may need to occur that acupuncture, diet, exercise and supplements may not tap into.   

Lastly, acupuncture is not something that should only be used when something is wrong, but ongoing regular treatments tap into the core of Chinese medicine, which is to prevent health problems from occurring in the first place.  Getting acupuncture once per month is a wonderful way of staying healthy and avoiding future health problems.  

Article contributed to Natural Blaze by guest author with permission.

Dr. Scott Graves ND, MA is a Florida-based Naturopath and Intuitive who specializes in Nutrition Response Testing, NAET, EFT, and Psychokinesiology. He offers free 15 minute phone consultations and is available for radio and TV interviews. Read his Blog and hear his PODCAST here. Like him on Facebook.

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