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Does acupuncture hurt?

I sometimes think acupuncture needles get a bad rap and wish that they were not called ‘needles’ at all. Acupuncture, when performed correctly, should be a relaxing experience – not a painful one.

I am frequently asked by new patients at my Melbourne acupuncture clinic: “Is it in? Is that it?” Evidently they were expecting something far more traumatic than the treatment they receive. Often, my patients relax so much with the needles in that they fall asleep.

I think the problem is that people wrongly associate acupuncture needles with hypodermic syringes – those scary needles that give you a sometimes quite painful prick when you go for your flu vaccination.

But acupuncture needles could not be more different from hypodermic syringes. They are thin and bendy little things that you will barely notice when they’re popped in. In fact you can fit 20-40 acupuncture needles inside just one hypodermic syringe!

The sensations that you feel once acupuncture needles are in are more often described as ‘weird’ then ‘painful’. In contrast to the sharp, strong sensation you get from an injection, you might feel a bit ‘crampy’ around an acupuncture needle. Some people might feel a bit ‘tingly’ or even ‘electric buzzy’. Sometimes it feels ‘warm’ or ‘heavy’. Sometimes you really won’t feel much at all.

The strange sensations you feel during needling are usually only felt just after I have put the needle in, and just as I am ‘telling the needle’ what to do. This is known as ‘applying the chi’. For example, if your energy is low, I may do a slight twiddle of the needle to tonify the energy.

All needling points around the body can feel different, depending on where they are, and on how your energy is on the day.

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