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Acupuncture treatment duration should not be less than five weeks in order to achieve an adequate analgesic effect in chronic pain conditions. An international author team from the UK, USA and China included data from seventy-seven randomised clinical trials involving 8,830 patients in their systematic review. Analysis of response time suggested that a treatment duration of five weeks or more was needed to achieve 80% of maximum analgesic effect. Higher analgesic effects for acupuncture were observed when baseline pain intensity was higher, and when pain was located in the neck, shoulder and knee area. Maximum analgesic effects of sham acupuncture and conventional therapy were 22.6 and 15.8 points on a 0-100 scale. The absolute effect of true acupuncture was 26.1 points for low back pain, and 34.9 points for other pain body locations, in patients with a baseline pain intensity of 60 points. To achieve 90% of the maximum effect, the duration of acupuncture treatment should be at least 11 weeks.

The response-time relationship and covariate effects of acupuncture for chronic pain: a systematic review and model-based longitudinal meta-analysis. Eur J Pain. 2020 Jun 13.