Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Listen to Aspyn as I place a needle into her leg..."Oh my God, I didn't even feel it"!

And Landen..."People are afraid of that. Really?"

Simply put, acupuncture doesn't hurt!

This topic is worth visiting several times. Unfortunately, according to a recent survey conducted by one of the leading California acupuncture colleges, the unfounded and unrealistic fear of pain is the number one reason patients don’t seek acupuncture care.

Many patients would rather suffer needlessly with neck, back, head or joint pain before visiting a highly recommended and skilled acupuncturist. So sad!

Ironically, the most common comments I hear from my patients new to acupuncture over the years are

"It’s so painless!" 

"It’s so pain relieving!"


"It’s so blissfully relaxing!"

Most of my patients leave more relaxed than if they had gotten a full body massage.  The soothing and healing effects of acupuncture last so much longer by comparison. 

My advice is don’t shy away from having a hair plucked (typically what an acupuncture insertion may feel like) if it means being able to comfortably go to work, robustly play your weekend sports, delight in picking up and playing with your kids, and being able to grow older with energy, agility, and vitality!  

There is a big secret here and you are about to be let in on it.  

Most all of the fear is purely a semantic issue.  Yes, that’s right!  Not a real experience issue, but an imaged issue.   

The acupuncture profession would benefit immensely by simply renaming its tools to something like “fibers” or “filaments”. Hypodermic needles are almost exclusively what the public has experienced since they were little children dreading those terrible visits to the doctor's office.  

Acupuncturists are not hypodermic needles!  Hypodermic needles are tough, thick tubes of metal designed to draw material out of the body or push it into the body.  It usually doesn’t feel great.  

By comparison, acupuncture needles, or shall we say “fibers” are flexible and very thin. They are not even that easy to see.  

When one gets to get an injection of some medication or blood drawn out of the body, the thickness of the hypodermic needle typically ranges from .03225 of an inch to .065 of an inch.  By comparison, the typical acupuncture “fiber” is usually between .0063 and .0079 of an inch.  That is roughly 10 times more minute with nothing to push in or pull out of the body.

The more skilled your acupuncturist, the more likely you are to have a pain-free, enjoyable experience that you will look forward to repeating over and over again in the weeks and months that come as your health challenges diminish.  

I literally have had young children put on a big smile and say “Do it again!  Do it again!” upon experiencing acupuncture for the first time.  

According to a very recent Huffington Post blog, there are 5 common sensations commonly used words to describe the sensation of acupuncture:  heavy, achey, tingly, electric and warm.  (Notice the absence of the word “sharp”).  

Is it best to feel nothing at all?  

Not necessarily.  One of the more famous instructors I had would let his patients choose what gauge needle he would use.  His experience told him that the thicker needles cause quicker results.  

In my experience, I have found that getting a comfortable dull spreading sensation (known as the “qi” sensation) is desirable.  I also enjoy the positive reputation of  providing my patients with a comfortable, enjoyable, and painless experience.  My view is if the body is uncomfortable it will be in a state of contraction, and optimal healing comes when the body, mind, and spirit are relaxed.

In sum, virtually all of the “pain” experienced with acupuncture is the mental “pain” we put there by comparing the acupuncture experience with the vastly different hypodermic needle experience.  

My advice: don’t let a mis-association hinder your life! Enjoy what this thousands year old healing art and science has to offer your health and longevity!