Prescription pain medication “numbs” you out. Acupuncture works differently. Acupuncture is more like a crockpot than a microwave - it works slowly through and through rather than heating you up quick and leaving hot spots in the middle. Sometimes people are unsure if acupuncture is working or not. Frequently when a person has a chronic pain condition they shut off the connection to their body as a survival mechanism so it can be hard to know! Here’s how to tell the acupuncture is working.
Are you taking less pain medication?
This is a big one. If you are able to drop a dose, wait longer between doses or forget to take it those are all good signs! You may still be feeling pain however needing less or a less strong medication is a sign your body is healing.
Do you notice a change in the location, frequency and/or intensity of the pain?
Did the area of the pain get smaller? If your whole back hurt and now its just your upper back that is a sign you are getting better. Do you get headaches twice a week instead of daily? That is a very good sign. Has the overall pain level decreased? Again, good news!
Do you feel relief right after the treatment but then it “wears off”?
This is a good sign. Keep coming back! As you get more acupuncture your body will become more stable and the relief will last longer and longer. This is why we recommend coming more often in the beginning of treatment - an ideal minimum is twice a week for moderate to severe conditions. Your body is in a habit right now and it’s going to take some time for it to learn how to do something new. Stick with it, it’s working!
Are you able to do more?
Maybe you’re able to forget about your pain sometimes. Maybe simple things like grocery shopping or going down the stairs is easier. Can you walk a little farther before having to sit down? Is getting dressed easier? Can you get down on the floor and play with your grandkids and be able to get back up again? Is your pain not interfering with your life as much? Acupuncture is working. Keep going!
Do you feel better overall?
Are you smiling a little bit more? Feel a little more hopeful? Is your anxiety or brain fog better? Living with chronic pain can be exhausting and depressing - sometimes an improved mood is the first sign acupuncture is working. So if you’re feeling a little less grumpy - keep coming back!
Acupuncture is a great tool to manage chronic pain because it not only helps to reduce pain, it also helps with energy level, mood, sleep and stress which can worsen chronic pain conditions. It also has no side effects and feels pretty amazing! A person’s tolerance to pain decreases when they aren’t getting enough sleep and are stressed out for example. Life seems more overwhelming and we have less ability to manage it when we aren’t feeling well. Our bodymindspirit is interconnected, what affects one area of us, affects all.
Meaghan Massella, M.Ac, L.Ac, Dipl. Ac (NCCAOM) is an acupuncturist, business owner and mother of 2.