Is acupuncture a miracle cure? Or is it a lifestyle change? Can it help you recover today? Or do you have to commit to months of regular appointments? These are just a few of the questions we get from patients who are new to acupuncture. And they are smart questions, too, because they highlight the paradox of acupuncture:

It works instantly and it takes time to work. Let me explain:

Acupuncture is a staple of holistic medicine, “holistic” meaning body, mind, and soul. The centuries-old tradition works by using hair-thin needles to unblock qi, or life energy, from pathways in our bodies. Western medical practitioners are beginning to prove what Traditional Chinese Medicine providers have known all along—acupuncture works by regulating any number of the systems of the human body. The beneficial effects are multivalent, working on several levels above and beyond the symptoms a patient is experiencing.

It’s for this reason that acupuncture can work immediately—by reducing stress, improving sleep, providing an energy boost, and even eradicating certain types of pain.

But acupuncture is science, not magic. Not all conditions can be cured immediately. For chronic conditions or disease, it’s part of an overall lifestyle change that many patients choose to make on their road to recovery. Some patients come in weekly, some daily—it depends on the treatment plan laid out by the acupuncturist.

The important thing to remember is that with each session, your overall health improves. Unlike many conventional pharmaceuticals that mask symptoms, acupuncture works on the whole body to heal the root cause.

If your condition is serious, it might take a little bit of patience to see a reduction in your symptoms, just as it would if you started taking a new medicine or adopting a new diet. The benefit of acupuncture, however, is that you’ll start to see other aspects of your health improve, too—right from the very first session!