How long for treatments to show they are working?

Q:  How long for treatments to show they are working. I've been having acupuncture for 2 times a week for about 2 months. I have stiffness in the back of my neck that reduces my ability to turn my head side to side. I still have stiffness and a clicking sound in my neck.

A:  This is always very difficult to say. A great deal depends on factors like the time which the problem has been around, the extent of the physical change which the body is trying to achieve to restore proper function, and the person's overall energy levels. If someone has a difficult problem but excellent constitutional condition they might make faster progress than someone with a relatively minor problem in a weaker system.

The crucial issue is trying to set measurable outcomes, and then to hold regular reviews of progress. With many problems it may feel as though there has been no progress at all until it has nearly been fixed, so trying to establish independent measures of progress is really important. These are often called ROM (range of movement) measurements and can involve degrees of turn. They can often demonstrate that change has taken place even where it may not feel as though this were the case.

There is always a need to review progress every four or five weeks. Otherwise it is easily possible to get locked into a kind of treatment 'habit' where both practitioner and patient start saying 'same time next week' without reflecting on the fact that five or six weeks have elapsed and change has been slight. Not every case responds to acupuncture treatment, and acupuncture treatment may not be the best option for every problem. It is very important to draw a line if there has been no real change either in the patient's condition or the diagnostic signs which a practitioner uses to determine what has happened.

The very fact that you are asking means that the time has come to sit down with your practitioner and have a serious talk about what they are finding and whether, based on their experience, they feel that they are actually making a difference. If you both feel that this isn't working then it may be time to explore other treatment options. The practitioner will almost certainly have other recommendations as fallback options.


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