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Acupuncture – Does It Hurt?

Written by Liz Hannen Acupuncturist

One of the most frequently asked questions I hear from new clients before I start their first treatment is, “Does it hurt?”

The truth is, everybody is different.

As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, the last thing I aim to do is cause pain, despite my tool of trade being needles.
Most people go out of their way to avoid pain, including me.

Acupuncture needles:

  • Are very fine – less than 0.3mm.
  • Totally different to a vaccination or blood test needle.
  • When the needle goes in, it can hardly be felt.
  • At best – no sensation at all; at worst – like a mosquito bite.

The Process

  • Once in situ, I twirl the needle back and forth to stimulate the acupuncture point.
  • As soon as a sensation is felt by the client I stop.
  • This sensation is the arrival of Qi to the point, or the ‘point being activated’.
  • The sensation felt when a point is stimulated can be different for every person.
  • Each point on the same person can also feel different.
  • This feeling can be as mild as “just a strange feeling” or a sensation of heat or cold ….or, yes, sometimes pain.
  • This sensation is usually only brief.

My Recent Experience as a Patient of Acupuncture – Does It Hurt?

I was prompted to write this article after seeking acupuncture myself for treatment of lower back pain recently.

I have had great success using acupuncture for lower back pain many times in my own practice. Having had this pain for some time, I decided it was time for me to be the patient of my own medicine.

I promptly discovered that not all practitioners share my point of view about answering “No” to the question: “Acupuncture – Does It Hurt?”

The treatment I received was extremely painful: the needles were strongly stimulated past the arrival of Qi, as well as at regular intervals. This strong stimulation caused pain that made my entire body and all its aching muscles tense up even more tightly than before I entered the appointment.

What I Know From My Practice

Whilst Traditional Chinese Acupuncture is taught with these strong stimulation methods, I personally do not believe in the old “no pain, no gain” paradigm.

In my own clinical practice, I have found strong stimulation methods largely unnecessary. In my experience, the more gentle way of practicing achieves favourable results, without causing the client the pain and the distress that I endured.

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Acupuncture is such a wonderful therapy.
It does not have to be painful.