Pacific Wellness Toronto News

Frequency of Acupuncture

By: Tim H. Tanaka, Ph.D.

Did you know that acupuncture-visit frequency trends differ among countries and regions?

In China and Japan, for example, acupuncture is routinely performed every day or every other day until noticeable improvement occurs. Similar trends can be observed in some other Asian countries.

In Canada and the US, however, most new patients receive acupuncture treatment once a week. This treatment schedule is almost a gold standard, especially among practitioners who obtained their acupuncture training in North America. Why? According to one of the pioneers of American acupuncture, the weekly acupuncture schedule was, in the 1970s, simply adopted, without any therapeutic rationale, from the standard practices of psychotherapy and massage therapy (in which weekly sessions are the norm). Since then, American teachers have handed down the standard to their students.1 Although psychotherapy and massage may typically be performed once per week, physiotherapy and chiropractic are often performed daily or every other day in North America—an approach similar to the acupuncture-treatment schedule in Asia.

Please note that the treatment frequencies described above are general trends. They can vary depending on practice setting, the type of acupuncture treatment offered, and practice philosophy. All acupuncturists are aware, however, that it is crucial to administer subsequent treatments before the effects of one treatment decline to the pre-treatment level, in order to develop cumulative effects. It is, therefore, important to know how long the therapeutic effect lasts after each acupuncture session. Unfortunately, this vital information is not available in standard acupuncture textbooks. As a researcher directly involved in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data through various physiology research projects, I have gained a general idea of the approximate duration of the therapeutic effects acupuncture has on different organ systems. My experience includes countless hours spent in the laboratory, observing electrophysiology monitors that display study participants’ during- and post-acupuncture responses in nervous-system function, blood flow, and muscle function.

Frequency recommendations are supposed to be based on scientific data and clinical experience, rather than simply following regional standards or trends. Qualified acupuncturists will develop a protocol that offers an adequate frequency of therapy administration, thereby making it possible to expect a profound impact on the patient’s health through cumulative effects from each acupuncture treatment.

1) Flaws, B. “Acupuncture and the 50-Minute Hour.” Acupuncture Today, 08 (10) 2007

Acupuncture is an individualized therapy system. It is important to modify the treatment protocol, including the frequency of sessions, in response to the patient’s health condition and other factors. The main intent of traditional acupuncture is to address the root cause of illness rather than target temporal symptomatic relief only.

We only recommend a minimum number and frequency of visits required for a condition. We will assess each patient’s condition and recommend a treatment schedule that we feel is most effective based on our 25-plus years of clinical experience. It is important that patients follow the schedule presented in order to achieve the best possible treatment outcome in the most efficient manner. Everyone understands that it is  important to follow a doctor’s recommendations for the dosage, frequency, and duration of a prescribed medication in order to obtain the expected benefits. Acupuncture is no exception in this regard; the difference between success and failure sometimes depends upon the patient’s compliance with treatment recommendations. We understand that everyone has a unique situation. If you have any questions or concerns, please communicate with us. We are here to help you and will try our best to accommodate your needs and provide you with different options whenever possible.


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