Does it hurt?
This varies from person to person. Acupuncture is done with extremely thin, flexible needles made of stainless steel. You may experience brief discomfort as the needle pierces the skin, sometimes followed by soreness or a drawing sensation. As the practitioner progresses with stimulation of the needle, there may be numbness, heat, dull aching or tingling. More often than not, the experience is relatively painless. Some people are apprehensive during the first treatment because of the unfamiliarity and their previous experiences with much thicker, hypodermic needles. In my experience, this apprehension can create a sense of threat in the patient which amplifies any perceived sense of pain. It appears that one’s response to acupuncture is quite subjective. Some people report feeling almost nothing while others find each insertion unpleasant!
It is important to understand that the Acupuncturist is trying to stimulate inherent physiological and healing responses in the patient. It is you that does the healing; the acupuncturist is simply negotiating with your body; in a sort of dialogue. And thus, In the Chinese way of thinking, in order for acupuncture to be truly effective one should be feeling something! When the needle is inserted, two important conditions must follow. Firstly, the practitioner seeks to catch or contact the chi, this is a sensation felt by the patient. It is usually felt as a slight ache, a radiating, tingling or numbness. A strong, referred sensation along the channel can also occur almost immediately. This can be of an almost electrical nature. Secondly, there is what the practitioner feels which is called the ‘arrival of the chi’. This is often likened to a’ fish on a hook’ as it feels like a small twitch, a tightening of tissue around the needle or a perceivable tugging on the needle. Changes in state of the patient such as facial suffusion of colour, a relaxed sigh, and so on, will often occur as a result of this.
Small, localized bruises from minor bleeding under the skin are infrequent, but do happen. These are no cause for alarm. Depending on your situation between eight or more needles may be used. Different points require the needles to be inserted to different depths.