Do acupuncture needles hurt?

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Do acupuncture needles hurt?
Written By: Dr. Tatyana Johnson ~ 6/3/2019

The most common questions and comments about acupuncture needles that I hear from new patients are:

  • Does acupuncture hurt?
  • Is the needle big?
  • Will I feel the pain during the needle insertion?
  • I’ve heard about so many positive benefits with acupuncture but just thinking about needles bring fears to my mind.
  • I had a bad experience with a previous acupuncturist and now I am afraid to try it again.

These questions and comments arise due to the use of needles, one of a licensed acupuncturist’s most important tools. When it comes to inserting needles, every acupuncture practitioner has different training techniques. In my practice I perform a very gentle insertion with high quality (made in Japan and Korea) sterile acupuncture needles.

AcupunctureNeedles06032019_s.jpgAbout the needle:
Acupuncture needles are very smooth, are made from stainless steel, and have different lengths and gauges of width. They are as thin as a single strand of hair and have a fine point. Unlike hypodermic needles used in medical offices, acupuncture needles are hollow and used for intramuscular, intravenous injections. Hypodermic needles have a sharp cutting-edge point, which is a big difference from acupuncture needles. About ten acupuncture needles can fit in a single hypodermic needle.

Who can use acupuncture needles:
I strongly advise that you always receive any acupuncture treatment from a licensed acupuncturist with the appropriate credentials, which require thousands of hours of extensive training. The minimum amount of time for a master’s degree in acupuncture is three years, whereas a doctoral degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine requires five years. Please check the credentials of any practitioner you visit.

Please keep in mind that chiropractors, physical therapists, and naturopaths often incorporate acupuncture into their practice and call it “dry needling.” I simply call it “stick the needle in the area,” as it has nothing to do with real acupuncture treatments or knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine.

Choosing the right size and length of needles as well as method of insertion:
The selection of the appropriate needle is extremely important to avoid a painful insertion. Numerous factors should be considered, including the patient’s age, underlying health condition(s), main concerns, sensitivity, energy level, and blood pressure. Each acupuncture point has a specific location and function. To achieve the best result, it is critical to use the appropriate needle and technique for insertion (speed, angle, depth, rotation of the needle). You will never experience sharp pain if the needle is inserted correctly.

Do acupuncture needles hurt? What sensations can you experience during an acupuncture treatment?
Based on collective feedback I gathered from my patients, during needle insertion they experience a small pinch with quick dissipation, a dull heavy sensation, and/or itching. All these sensations settle in and quickly pass. Pain is not a sensation you should experience during an acupuncture treatment. If a patient reports pain after needle insertion, the needle should be removed quickly.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our clinic at 425-953-9559. I offer a free 30-minute session, during which I can explain and demonstrate in detail my technique of needle insertion. You will find that it is absolutely pain free, plus it brings a pleasant sensation that will take you to a stage of deep relaxation. You can book your appointment online at your convenience: 

Dr. Tatyana Johnson

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