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How To Know When Acupuncture Is Working

By Sara Calabro

Acupuncture is not a one-shot deal. It works cumulatively, meaning one treatment builds on the next.

There are certainly instances of acupuncture producing immediate results. However, this is more an exception than the rule—and when it happens, the results tend to be short lived.

If you want lasting results from acupuncture, especially for a chronic condition, you must commit to the process.

This approach to healing is unfamiliar for Westerners, who are accustomed to instant gratification in most aspects of life, including healthcare. Being forced to adopt a long-term, cumulative perspective can be confusing and frustrating.

Sometimes us instant-gratification junkies need to be thrown a bone! Fortunately, there are several indications that acupuncture is taking effect—even if your primary symptoms have not yet resolved. When these signs appear, symptom relief typically is not far behind.

Here are six signs that your acupuncture treatments are working.

You’re sleeping better

This is one of the most common signs that acupuncture is doing its thing. Many insomniacs who seek acupuncture for other reasons are surprised when their sleep problems resolve—often without ever having mentioned the issue to their acupuncturist. Even if you’re not someone who struggles with sleep, you still may notice yourself sleeping more deeply, waking less during the night, or feeling more rested upon waking.

You’re more aware

When acupuncture starts working, it can feel as if all of your senses just got a tune up. You hear birds chirping a little louder. The sky looks bluer. You notice the texture of your shirt against your skin. You literally smell roses. Food tastes better.

You’re also more in touch with sensations throughout your body. Maybe you notice the way you tense your shoulders when you sit at the computer. Or, you discover that as soon as something stressful happens, your stomach tightens and your breath becomes shallow.

If it feels like your world has gone from normal viewing to a vivid HD experience, acupuncture is working for you.

You’re more emotional

Many of us are amazingly skilled at funneling emotions into our bodies. It’s a defense mechanism that allows us to avoid dealing with these things—until, of course, our bodies start paying the price for it. Most people who seek acupuncture are dealing, at least on some level, with emotional stress as a contributor to their physical symptoms.

Acupuncture is like peeling an onion. Layer by layer, it exposes us until it gets to the core. Since acupuncture works by addressing the root cause of a condition, the process can cause repressed emotions to surface.

You may be quicker to cry or notice yourself feeling more sentimental than usual. In general, emotions—good or bad—are felt more intensely.

This is a good thing. It’s a sign that layers are being peeled back, which means you’re getting closer to reaching the core issue. Acupuncture is working.

You have more energy

Although receiving acupuncture is a relaxing, energy-grounding experience, your energy level may rise in the hours and days following a treatment. This means acupuncture has stirred the pot and stimulated movement throughout the meridians—and regular, steady movement throughout the meridians is ultimately what will resolve your chief complaint.

The surge in energy that acupuncture produces is different from the somewhat frenetic energy that surrounds daily life. It’s a kind of energy that makes you feel more awake and alive. You may notice that you’re less tired during the day, feeling more motivated to go out for a walk, or just sensing a little extra spring in your step.

You’re less stressed out

Contrary to the acupuncture-as-hippy-medicine stereotype, acupuncture does not send you into la-la land. It does not put you in a daze that makes you numb. It does, however, take the edge off.

Acupuncture evens out our moods so that we are less affected by and better equipped to manage the stressful aspects of our lives. The stress won’t disappear, but if you find yourself feeling less bogged down by it, acupuncture is working for you.

You’re more regular

Remember what I said earlier about regular, steady movement throughout the meridians being the thing that will ultimately resolve your chief complaint? Well, one of the clearest indicators of movement throughout the meridians is digestive health.

The organ systems and meridians that regulate digestion are intimately connected to all other structures and functions throughout the body, so your digestive health says a lot about your overall state of health.

If your digestion is too slow, too fast, or just generally erratic, it’s a red flag. On the other hand, if you start moving your bowels more regularly, it means things are evening out and moving in the right direction.

If you recognize any of these six signs, hang in there and stick with it. Acupuncture is working.

Photo by Sara Calabro

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Lonnie Hicks

I wish the Veterans Administration would see this article. When you are approved for acupuncture by the V.A. for Acupuncture or Chiropractic, the usually give you 5 sessions to start. Then the Acupuncturist or Chiropractor has to request more sessions and send a report, with the patient saying they want to continue or stop. If you want to continue, it takes weeks or sometimes a month or more, to get approval and you usually get 8 more sessions. By then, you have lost the benefits of the first sessions. After the 8 sessions, it is back to the V.A. for approval for more session and so it goes. The V.A. also will limit the total # of sessions, because they expect to see quick results and complete recovery of the physical issue. You can only get approval for one type of treatment sessions at a time. If you are approved for 8 sessions of Acupuncture, you must complete them and then request Chiropractic. Someone in the Acupuncture, Chiropractic or Healing Massage needs to get the V.A. to understand it takes more than a few scattered sessions for the healing arts of Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Massage to work! Why does the V.A. offer these services and not know how they work. I am not bashing the V.A., they do fantastic work, they just need to be educated on the 3 healing arts in the above message.

Joy Healey

My Mum had great benefits from acupuncture, but – as Lonnie mentions above – was not able to continue for a while and didn’t get as much benefit as she would have.


I received great results for my sinusitis. I agree with continued use you beome more intuned with you body.

Lonnie Hicks

If I had any influence over the V.A., I would get them to realize that Eastern Medical practices have been around a heck of a lot longer than Western Medical practices and in many cases have better outcomes. Western Medicine does not want to cure you, they just want to manage the symptoms, acupuncture and other Eastern Medical practices treat the whole body and work to cure the issues. We need someone with a ton of clout to get the V.A to change it’s ways!

Matthew Priest

There are three ways that acupuncture is known to reduce pain perception, involving blood flow, nerve signals and the relief of natural pain-killers. I don’t know anything about meridians and find it hard to relate to notions of energy flow and qui, but the scientific explanations do make sense to me. For a simple break-down of the three explanations, I suggest the following link:

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