A: That depends on the duration and severity of your symptoms. If you come in to my office with a pain that is 10/10 (10 worst) on a pain scale, then I am going to want to see you daily until the pain is gone (or at least MUCH more manageable.) On the other hand, if you experience a pain that is relatively low level, and only bothers you a few times per month, then I might only want to see you once per week, for a few weeks and then have a re-exam.
My “rule of thumb” is usually this: If you experience the symptom(s) daily, or even almost daily, then I want to see you at least twice per week for two weeks. The goal in the beginning of treatment is to get “in front” of the symptoms. Let’s use pain for an example. If you are in pain, in the beginning part of treatment we are “chasing” it. This means that I do a treatment, the pain gets better, or goes away, but then over the next few days it begins to come back, so we do another treatment, rinse and repeat. I want to get your appointments close enough together that we interrupt this cycle and get AHEAD of the pain, so that you are pain free between sessions. Once you are pain free between treatments for 2 or 3 sessions, then we will spread them out (IE once per week) for a few sessions, still pain free? Then we’ll reduce again. And we keep reducing until we find what maintenance program works for you.
For most patients, four treatments per year is the optimum maintenance package. My goal is to reverse your body’s malfunction to correct what is causing your symptoms. When we do that, the symptoms don’t come back, however, you will still have whatever predisposition inside of you that lead to the symptoms in the first place, which is why I like to see people four times per year, at season changes, to check in, re-evaluate, and treat your body to make the seasonal transition. This keeps your body in good shape, and allows me to catch something that may not be manifesting as a symptom yet. If I catch it soon enough, we can prevent you from ever having to suffer from its corresponding symptom.
For some patients though, full correction is impossible. Either they have too much damage, or have neglected it for too long. In this case, we find a maintenance plan that keeps them at their highest level of functioning (and for most people, that will be symptom free, or close to symptom free). In order to do that, it typically takes a maintenance plan of once per month, but really this is different for everyone.
And some patients, will still continue to come in more often. This occurs for various reasons, it could be that their condition is irreversible, but we offer them relief from their symptoms, so they come in often enough to experience that relief. Others still, just enjoy the process and recognize its preventative benefits, so will come in weekly (or even more!) to get their “dose”. I truly believe (because I see it every day!) that acupuncture is always beneficial, and we could literally be receiving it every day! However, with use of insurance, and cost of treatment, and even just a persons ability to make time commitments, we attempt to make treatment plans that allow the most benefit with the least amount of in-office treatment time.
So essentially, my goal is to get you in as often as needed to get ahead of your symptoms, then spread out gradually to find your own personal maintenance plan that is typically any where from four times per year to once per month. I want you to be functioning at your highest potential with little to no symptoms! This way, you can live a happier, healthier, and longer life!