Does acupuncture hurt is one of the more frequent questions that practitioners get asked, and it seems a pretty reasonable one to me.
The short answer to “does acupuncture hurt” is no, it doesn’t usually. The main reason for this is that the needles that we use are very thin, particularly when compared to a medical hypodermic needle. In fact, acupuncture needles do vary in width. Traditionally, Chinese practitioners would use slightly thicker needles than their Japanese counterparts. All needles are very thin to the naked eye, however. The needles that I use in standard practice are 0.25 mm wide, and I sometimes use even thinner ones – primarily for children, acupuncture points on the face, and when treating extremely sensitive patients.
Another reason why we can assure prospective patients who ask us does acupuncture hurt is about where acupuncture points are on the body and how deep the needles go in. While there are some acupuncture points, such as on the buttocks, where needles may have to go in quite deep, for example when treating a patient with sciatica, most of the time, the needles go in less than half a centimetre or even more shallowly than that. And of the many acupuncture points that there are on the human body, they have all been used for thousands of years in China and other parts of East Asia and, in the west, are located in very specific anatomical locations, so the skilled practitioner knows exactly where he is inserting the needle.
Acupuncturists who are members of the British Acupuncture Council are highly-trained (a three year dedicated degree course is now the requirement), and a part of their training is acupuncture needle technique that minimises any pain for the patient.
Of course, as anybody who has ever had an acupuncture treatment knows, there are sensations involved. Often when the needle is inserted into the correct area, patients report a wide range of sensations, such as nervy, throbbing, itchy, hot, cold, achey, or a travelling sensation. Such reports back to an acupuncturist normally puts a smile on our faces, as it is a sign that the treatment is working and that some change is happening in the body. In contrast to this, I find that patients very rarely report any sharp sensation from the actual needle.
I hope that is helpful and has provide some useful advice on the question “does acupuncture hurt?”.
For more information on the subject, check out this article in the Huffington Post.
To find out a little more about the treatment of chronic pain with acupuncture, click here.