Does Acupuncture Hurt? How Acupuncture Feels
When you think of acupuncture, you likely immediately think of the needles. Many people have a fear of needles (like me), and the thought of voluntarily being poked is not one that goes hand-in-hand with relaxation. But does acupuncture hurt? In short, it shouldn’t.
Acupuncture is just one method of treatment that can be incredibly useful. There are many ways to organically and naturally take care of your body. You can try some dynamic stretching, cardio exercise, and healthy eating as well to supplement acupuncture.
If you’ve never had acupuncture, you may not realize just how small the needles often are. When you imagine a needle, you may imagine a typical hypodermic needle, which is about 0.01 inches in dimater. Acupuncture needles, on the other hand, have an average diameter of about 0.003 inches. This is a third of the size, or about the size of a single strand of hair.
There are many different types of acupuncture that utilize different needles. For example, Japanese styles often use incredibly thin needles, while acupuncturists who treat pain in muscles may use needles on the larger size.
Just because there isn’t pain during acupuncture doesn’t mean you won’t experience any sensations. Some needles may be without any feeling, but most will leave a subtle sensation during your session. Here are a few common sensations which are completely normal to experience.
This is probably the most common sensation I’ve personally experienced during acupuncture. It does not hurt, but is a dull heaviness. This isn’t a sensation that causes you to feel unable to move or pinned down, but is more of a relaxing settling. At the point of contact, you may feel like the muscle is relaxing into the table or chair, creating a rather pleasant sense of ease.
Sometimes a slight ache may arise. Although it may seem like this is a hurting, it often lasts just a moment or two and isn’t actually painful. It goes with the heaviness and stimulation of the nerves. For a brief second, your hand or foot may feel sore. This is normal. If the aching continues, then you have a problem!
Tingling is another one I’ve experienced quite a bit during acupuncture sessions. As acupuncture stimulates the nervous system, it’s natural that the nerves fire slightly. Upon insertion of a needle, you may notice slight tingling at the insertion site or elsewhere in the body. This may be slightly unpleasant the first time, but it really isn’t painful or bad.
Many people report feeling spots of warmth during acupuncture treatments. Perhaps the best way to describe this sensation is like somebody has a mild heating pack on your body. It often starts where the needle was inserted, and may spread and dissipate. I don’t usually notice this warmth immediately, but it comes up a few minutes after the needle is inserted and then slowly dissipates.
This is somewhat related to the tingling sensation, but again doesn’t hurt. The feeling of electricity flowing is not like being shocked really. It’s more of a tiny zap, the result of a nerve being stimulated. Again, this may be unpleasant the first time you experience it, but once you have had it happen and know it is normal, it doesn’t cause any alarm or confusion.
Acupuncture does not hurt for several reasons. First, the needles being inserted are so tiny. Unlike their bigger, hollow, hypodermic cousins, they aren’t meant to inject something into your body. The needles are small, solid stainless steel, and incredibly sharp. Although a mild sensation may occur when inserting a needle, most people do not call it pain.
Second, acupuncturists know what they are doing! They are not sticking needles in aimlessly. Your acupuncturist knows where to put the needles, where to stimulate nerves, and can respond to your experience to take care of you. With a reputable acupuncturist, you will have needles inserted safely and carefully.
What Does it Mean When Acupuncture Hurts?
Sometimes, acupuncture does hurt. This generally is not a good thing. This can happen for a number of reasons. First, the needles are not inserted just perfectly. Although acupuncturists have a deep understanding of human anatomy, everyone has a unique body. If a needle goes in and is causing some pain, you can tell your provider and they will move it.
Another common side effect of acupuncture is a dull soreness after your session. This is especially common in the hands and feet. This isn’t a bad thing, but can be alarming if it is your first time getting acupuncture treatment.