Typically one of the first questions someone asks me about acupuncture is, “Does it hurt?” Many are so convinced that these tiny, thin needles will hurt that it discourages them from discovering the many benefits of acupuncture.
What does acupuncture feel like? It doesn’t hurt but there is a unique sensation. It can differ from person to person and from acupuncture point to point. Sometimes people feel a tiny pinch when the needle is inserted. It’s nothing like the hypodermic needles that are used for injections and blood draws. As you can see from the comparison chart above, acupuncture needles are many times thinner than hypodermic needles.
When an acupuncture needle is inserted the range of sensation can go from “Oh, I didn’t feel that at all,” to “That was a little pinchy.” Once a needle is inserted, a mild dull ache, warm, or heavy feeling may persist at the needle site or radiate down the body. This is good as it signifies de qi, the arrival of the body’s energy at the insertion point and the therapeutic effects of acupuncture.
The needles are in, what can you expect now? This is when the fun begins! Some say it feels like waves are passing through them, a heaviness like they are sinking into the table, or a weightlessness floaty sensation. One person described it to me as feeling, “minty” meaning cool and tingling. Another person told me, “It felt as though my hands were getting really big, like filling with sand. As soon as I opened my eyes to look, the feeling went away.”
If there is any uncomfortable sensation, speak up! The needles can be removed or adjusted at any time so that you can relax and be comfortable. Treatments are always geared toward the best therapeutic effect that is within your comfort zone. It’s not a “no pain, no gain” situation. You don’t need to lie perfectly still with the needles, small movements to maintain comfort are ok. It is surprising to those who have never had acupuncture to learn that most people find their treatments so relaxing that they fall asleep on the table, sometimes even before I’m done putting them all in! I have heard many snores coming through my treatment room doors.
If you are still curious about what acupuncture feels like, come in and give it a try!