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Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Does acupuncture hurt?

by Grace Ganel, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., Certified Zero Balancer

If you’ve never had acupuncture, but you know that needles have something to do with it, you’re probably thinking, “does acupuncture hurt?” Short answer: not usually. Read on to learn more!

Several factors go into whether acupuncture hurts. These range from practitioner-based, point-based, and even patient-based factors.

1) Does acupuncture with this practitioner hurt?

Some styles of needling are more painful than others. Trigger point releases tend to use needles of a larger gauge and involve more needle manipulation. Practitioners who practice a more Japanese style of acupuncture, like me, use smaller gauge needles and more gentle manipulation. So depending on the kind of acupuncture the practitioner uses, and the kind of needles and other tools they may use, acupuncture can hurt more or less. We are also trained to needle painlessly through certain techniques and methods. Some practitioners are just more… practiced at that than others! That’s going to come down to meeting the right practitioner for you.

Some practitioners even practice many non-needle techniques! Acupressure, magnets, gu sha, cupping, zero balancing, and qigong are all ways to work with the acupuncture meridians that do not use a single needle.

2) Does acupuncture on this point hurt?

Some points just hurt more. Points on the hands or feet, points on the face… these can be very sore because there are many, sensitive nerve endings in these regions. However in my 20 years of being needled by a variety of practitioners practicing a variety of styles, acupuncture has never hurt on my belly or back. These regions are just generally less sensitive. If you’re anxious about being needled in a particularly sensitive area, discuss this with your practitioner and see if they can think of a less painful way to go about things for you.

3) Am I more likely to have pain during acupuncture?

Some people have chronic illnesses or take medications that increase the chances that they will experience pain during acupuncture. Multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, anxiety and PTSD, and some neurological conditions, for example, can cause increased pain sensation during needling. Strangely, opioid medications can increase needle sensitivity due to the neurological changes that your body undergoes when you are taking opioids (it’s the same reason opioids are so prone to causing addiction – the neurological mechanisms of chemical dependence have a lot to do with it).

On the flip side, certain conditions can cause decreased needle sensitivity, such as diabetes and some neurological conditions. A good way to tell? If you have “a high pain threshold” and aren’t bothered by loud sounds, bright lights, and so on, you may be less sensitive. On the other hand, if you are prone to startling, often feel it’s too bright or too loud, and feel a lot of pain even with small injuries or if you suffer from chronic pain, you may experience more pain during acupuncture.

Schedule your free 15-minute virtual consultation today to find out if acupuncture and zero balancing with me are a good fit for you! We can discuss all of your concerns about needle sensitivity ahead of time.


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