Each person is unique and as such responds to acupuncture differently. Normally 5-6 treatments are required in order to see an improvement but for some people it may take 8-10 treatments; if there has been no improvement at all after this number of treatments then it is likely that acupuncture is not suitable. Informed consent is part of the process so you can terminate a treatment at any point if you do not feel it is working for you. Self-care between appointments is important – avoid things that could aggravate or trigger the problem and thus reduce progress.
The evidence base for the effectiveness of acupuncture for western conditions is:
Conditions with strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture: chronic back pain, headache (tension-type and chronic), migraine prophylaxis, knee osteoarthritis and postoperative pain. The reviews have consistent statistically significant positive effects and where authors have recommended the intervention. The quality of evidence is rated as moderate or high quality.
Conditions with moderate evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture: acute back pain, cancer pain, neck pain, lateral elbow pain, plantar heel pain and shoulder pain. Reviews reporting all individual RCTs or pooled effects across RCTs as positive, but the reviewers deeming the evidence insufficient to draw firm conclusions. The quality of evidence is rated as moderate or high quality.
Conditions with evidence of cost effectiveness: chronic pain, neck pain (plus usual medical care), low back pain, migraine headache and dysmenorrhoea.
Source: McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (Revised Edition). Brisbane: Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd; 2017. http://www.acupuncture.org.au)