Acupuncture - A Magic Pill?

I love hearing stories of people who have fixed their health issues with acupuncture. They went to every doctor, tried all of Google’s remedies - and one acupuncture treatment cured them forever. In fact, I even have a few patients with stories like that. Someone comes in with chronic back pain, gets one treatment, and feels great. These are the type of stories that have made acupuncture famous.

Unfortunately, these are the exception, and not the rule. Acupuncture is not some magic voo-doo. It is medicine. And usually medicine takes time to work.

Be Patient

In our modern culture of fast food, fast internet, and fast-acting medications, we want everything, and we want it now. Of course, deep down we all know that anything that’s worth it takes time. Even many medications your doctor gives you take 6-8 weeks to be effective. The same goes for Chinese Medicine.

It’s no different than any other health practice – the more you do it, the better you feel. You can’t just work out once and expect it to last the rest of your life. Or eat one healthy meal and fix all your problems. Physical therapy is prescribed 1-2 times a week for a few months. Antibiotics are prescribed to be taken every day for 7-10 days.  And acupuncture needs to be done 1-2 times a week in order to get the full benefit.

Acupuncture is Medicine

If you fell and twisted your ankle, and you immediately went to your acupuncturist to get it treated, you could expect one treatment to get rid of the swelling and pain. You’d probably need one or two more treatments to clear out any residual blood that is stuck in the area, and tighten the ligaments back up. By that time, your ankle would be as good as it was before the sprain. That’s pretty powerful medicine.

However, if you were in a car accident 20 years ago, and have been walking around with back pain from a herniated disc, 3 treatments are not going to cure you. In Chinese medicine, we say it takes a month of treatment for every year you’ve had a condition. So this 20-year-old injury would take almost 2 years, or 20 months, of regular treatment to heal completely. In just a few treatments, however, you should feel some temporary relief as fresh blood starts flowing through the area, and the muscles around the disc relax. The more often you are treated, the better it will feel, and the longer it will last.

And It Works!

I have a patient, let’s call him Stewart, who works in construction. He slipped and fell 3 stories down. The doctors told him that half the people who fall that far die from it, and half of those who live are paralyzed. He lucked out, and was just in significant pain. 5 months after the fall, he walked into my office for the first time. In those first 2 weeks we treated him 3 times. Then once a week for 5 more weeks. Stewart was amazed at the reduction in pain. He could go a full week without the pain returning. So we spread out the treatments to every other week.  A month or two of that and he could go 2 weeks without the pain coming back. So we pushed it out to once a month. And now Stewart is able to go a month before his pain returns. This was a man who was told by his doctors that there was no surgery or physical therapy that would help him, and that he would just have to deal with the pain.

Acupuncture is not a magic pill. But it sure is a powerful medicine.

Have you used acupuncture to heal a chronic health issue? How long did it take? Are you glad you stuck with it? Share your stories below.


Elizabeth Williams is an acupuncturist in Greenville, South Carolina, specializing in pain management, women’s health, and psycho-emotional issues. She’s passionate about helping people feel their best and sharing her wealth of knowledge with the community. Elizabeth is the owner of Dragonfly Acupuncture & Massage, on Wade Hampton Boulevard. Appointments can be made by calling 864-451-4313, or scheduled online here.