How to Tell if Acupuncture Is Working Even if You’re Still in Pain

Chronic pain can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if acupuncture is working. Progress is not always linear or straightforward. 

If you’re receiving acupuncture for chronic pain, and you’re not sure if it’s helping, here are some questions to ask yourself (each one of these is based on real conversations we’ve had with regular patients).

  • Am I taking less pain meds? If your pain is the same, but you’re on less pain medication, that’s a sign of progress. 
  • Has the pain changed? Sometimes acupuncture shrinks the area of pain before it changes the intensity of the pain. Likewise, if the pain was very intense all day every day and now you’re getting windows of the milder pain, that’s progress as well. We recommend paying attention to intensity, frequency and duration of pain.
  • Are you able to return to activities that you’ve struggled with due to pain? We often see people’s capacities increase and lives expand after they start acupuncture, sometimes even before they report a significant decrease in pain.
  • On a related note: did you feel so good after your treatment that you overdid it and re-injured yourself? It’s not uncommon for people to get excited when they feel better, do too much and then have the pain set in again. That is a sign that acupuncture is helping (and that you still need to take it easy, at least for now!)
  • Are you sleeping better or longer? Chronic pain often interferes with sleep. If you’re still in just as much pain during the day, but your sleep is better, then the acupuncture is most likely helping. Hopefully, you’ll experience daytime relief as well. 
  • Is your focus and/or executive function better? Chronic pain demands a lot of our brains’ bandwidth. Acupuncture can help clear up mental fog, forgetfulness, anxiety or low mood. Sometimes peoples’ mood or focus improves before their pain does.

If you have questions about acupuncture for chronic pain, please get in touch. 

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