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Acupuncture for chronic insomnia has slightly worsened

Q:  Over 7 weeks I had acupuncture treatment for chronic insomnia (one session per week). The insomnia has slightly worsened, not improved, and I am awake from 3 am most mornings. I used to get some relief from Valerian, but since the acupuncture Valerian does not work. How long is it before the effects of the acupuncture wear off?

A:  We are sorry to hear that you are experiencing increased problems with the insomnia, but we would be very surprised if the change was down to the acupuncture treatment. Traditional acupuncture, when delivered properly, is all about balancing energies and unblocking areas of stuck energy. The most that usually happens after a session is that there can be a 24-72 window during which the energetic changes can cause mild and transient reactions like a slight headache or lightheadness, and in the case of musculo-skeletal problems a slight worsening of the symptoms. After this the body tends to stay in its adjusted state unless someone is doing something which causes it to revert, like working far too hard or eating erratically.

In this very limited case, where the treatment is given against a backdrop of poor lifestyle (not that we are suggesting that you have) it might be possible for a treatment to 'wear off' but if this were to be the case then the practitioner would be particularly concerned to adjust the treatment to avoid a kind of boom-slump cycle. The practitioner might also be interested in the fact that you are awake from 3.00am. Odd as it might sound, there are a number of diagnostic patterns where this would be a significant and which might just have been made more apparent by an overall boost in the body's energies. Over the longer term, however, the pattern would revert, so it would be surprising to find that a course of treatment had caused long term adverse effects.

We are interested to read from your supplementary question that it was a drop-in session at which you had the treatment. We are not quite sure what this means. We have a number of members who operate in multi-bed settings which offer treatment at reduced rates for people who could not otherwise afford it, but we are aware that there are other settings where people offer acupuncture, often ear acupuncture, on a walk-in basis. If it is the former this would still be traditional acupuncture. If it was the latter then it might be slightly more formulaic, and there is no doubt that for some people the repeated use of a formula which was not suited to the patient might exacerbate a problem. The best person to ask would be the practitioner who offered the treatment. If it has been done in a traditional way and crafted to your individual needs, the feedback will make sense and perhaps point to ways forward. If it is/was a formula treatment, then it might simply be better to avoid further sessions, as you have.

There is no doubt that acupuncture can benefit in treating insomnia, as our factsheet shows

and you may still find that seeking advice from one of our members working locally to you is a good option if the treatment that you had was offered by someone who did not belong to our body. Most members are happy to offer a brief chat without charge to assess whether someone may be able to benefit from traditional acupuncture.

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