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Cathy Wong, ND

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

By July 7, 2006

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When people try acupuncture for the first time, they're typically surprised by how much it doesn't hurt.

But if a person does feel any pain or discomfort, it usually happens while the acupuncturist is "manipulating" the needles which involves twisting or tapping the needle for a few seconds until there is a mild ache in the area. Other than that, there can also be a pricking sensation when the needle is inserted, but people usually feel very little. What do you think? Have you found acupuncture to be painful?

Poll: Do you think acupuncture hurts?

  • It hurts a lot.
  • It hurts a little bit.
  • It doesn't hurt.
  • It doesn't hurt and it's relaxing.
  • View Results Keep in mind though that what a person feels during acupuncture depends on many factors, such as the needle location (for example, the back of the hand is more sensitive than the low back), the condition being treated, and the technique of the acupuncturist.
  • Comments
    July 11, 2006 at 1:53 pm
    (1) Cecilia Burrough says:

    I have had many accupuncture sessions and usually find they don’t hurt. However the longer I went (which was weekly) the more the accupuncturist seemed twist, tap and sometimes heat the needles. The twisting often caused a quick sharp pain. As you said the location really does make a difference too.

    July 11, 2006 at 4:23 pm
    (2) Dee says:

    Acupuncture generally doesn’t hurt. You might feel a little prick when a needle is inserted. The only place where I’ve felt a slight discomfort after the needle was removed is on the top of my head.

    July 11, 2006 at 6:12 pm
    (3) Cardot Françoise says:

    Acupuncture sometimes hurts a little bit when some needles are inserted, but i do find it very relaxing and efficient !

    July 12, 2006 at 7:32 am
    (4) Paz says:

    I agree that the location makes a big difference, but also, the more often you go, (I go weekly) the less “touchy” even those points can get. Once the needles are in, I get all placid and relaxed. Acupuncture is the only treatment I’ve found to treat fibromyalgia pain and brain fog without drugs. Not all acupuncturists are created equal, but if you can find a really good one, s/he can be a real miracle worker. It’s amazing what a good acupuncture will do for overall quality of life. Even symptoms not related to the fibro that I wasn’t specifically getting treated for seem to improve, i.e. my depression is now at a bearable level, my concentration is better and I can’t even remember the last time I ever had a cold sore.

    December 22, 2006 at 3:45 pm
    (5) DD says:


    January 11, 2007 at 7:28 pm
    (6) Mary says:

    I hate acupuncture but will endure it to feel better. The needle insertions don’t hurt but when the practitioner twists & twirls the neeedle it’s downright painful and sometimes I’ve had an electrical zap which makes me yell “OW!!!”. Interesting that the poll finds that a large % of people find it painful although many are told it doesn’t entail any discomfort.

    February 21, 2008 at 9:46 am
    (7) Joanne says:

    I go for treatments to increase my energy level and metabolism. I really find that certain points hurt more than others (and those points hurt a whole lot). I found the emotional points to be the worst, almost unbearable at first. Overall though, I find the treatments to be relaxing and well worth the initial pain.

    July 17, 2008 at 12:30 pm
    (8) Stephen Kaplan, MS, L.Ac. says:

    As an acupuncturist I strive for pain free treatments. Rarely, but sometimes it pinches. If there is any pain or discomfort at the needle site, I address it, and often remove the needle. I would then reinsert it and the discomfort does not return. Occasionally a needle insertion may impact a small nerve cell that creates such discomfort. That is why removing it, and reinserting is so important. As long as the needle remains in that spot, it will continue to bring that nerve cell to threshold. Twisting and manipulating needles causes increased sensation. Nothing should be done that causes a patient discomfort. Everyone has a different comfort level and this should be respected by all acupuncturists. I’m deeply troubled that 58% of the poll says it hurts a lot. This implies that acupuncturists are not being trained properly, and they need to make themselves more aware of patient comfort. Otherwise they are no better than a doctor inserting syringes with no care about patient comfort. One reason people seek alternative medicine is to get gentler medical attention.

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