Every time I give a talk or meet somebody and talk about acupuncture, the most common question is always, “does it hurt?”
The does it hurt question is so commonly asked, but it is a hard question to answer because everybody is different, everybody has different pain thresholds, and what one person says is completely painless, another person might say they feel some pain with it. Generally speaking, it doesn’t hurt and most people don’t feel too much except for a quick pinch feeling as the needle is inserted into the skin. This does vary however from acupuncturist to acupuncturist due to different techniques and how heavy their hand is. Some acupuncturists prefer to use a “free hand” technique while others use a guide tube to insert the needles. The free hand technique might be a little bit more painful just because the insertion is a little bit slower, however some acupuncturists swear by that method and claims that they get better results with that, while with a guide tube insertion, you can usually get much quicker insertion of the needle. It’s the insertion where you generally will feel that pinch sensation.
Now that the initial “pinch” is finished, there are other things that can be felt by the patient. This is where the answer gets complicated, because I’ve had patients tell me that they feel nothing, and other patients tell me they feel an aching sensation around the needles. Every patient responds differently and every patient will have a different explanation of what they are feeling. Some of the more common descriptions I have received are that they feel an aching sensation, or pressure like somebody is pressing down on the spot. I’ve also heard some people say that they feel heat or warmth at the point of the needles, while others feel a pulsating feeling radiating from the needles. And if at any point the stimulation is too strong, as long as you voice it, the acupuncturist should be able to re-adjust the needles or take them out which will usually alleviate any pain if there is any.
Generally speaking, acupuncture doesn’t hurt and I’ve worked on everybody from 6 year olds to 85 year olds and they all do very well with it. Animals also seem to enjoy acupuncture as well which is an indicator that it isn’t too painful. And you can also ask your acupuncturist to use smaller needles if you wish so you may feel even less.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me or call me and I’ll be glad to answer anything I can for you.