Apple cider vinegar Is Pilates for you? 'Ambient gaslighting' 'Main character energy'

Acupuncture is ancient Chinese medicine. But does it hurt?

Bebe Hodges

Acupuncture can be used to treat pain or discomfort, among many other conditions. But does the practice itself cause pain?

Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine that stimulates the flow of energy in one’s body. The therapy involves the insertion of fine needles into the skin to produce a therapeutic effect. And for many of us, needles equate to discomfort.

But don’t worry. David Wang, a licensed acupuncturist at the Ohio State Center for Integrative Medicine and who holds a Ph.D. in medicine, says that the treatment shouldn’t hurt. Wang walks us through what exactly the process feels like and what else to know before your first acupuncture appointment.

Does acupuncture hurt?

As long as the therapy is performed by a skilled practitioner, it shouldn’t be painful. According to Wang, the acupuncture needles may feel like a small pinch or a mosquito bite.

Some areas might be more sensitive than others. Acupuncture involves inserting the needles at prescribed points; the location of these points varies depending on what health issue one is trying to address. Sometimes people may experience a heavy sensation in the affected area, a feeling of energy spreading or even a dull ache, some numbness or a tingling feeling around an acupuncture point, “but it’s not really like a hurting,” adds Wang. He later adds that these sensations are positive signs that the treatment is working.  

What can I expect at my first acupuncture appointment?

If you are new to acupuncture therapy, Wang outlines a handful of things that you can expect for your first appointment. Usually, the practitioner will collect the client’s medical information, including their medical history and determine the Chinese Medicine diagnosis.

During the acupuncture treatment, fine needles are placed on prescribed points. Once they're inserted, the needles may be left in place for somewhere between 15 to 45 minutes. The exact amount of time varies. The treatment can last for 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the condition. Wang emphasizes that people should drink plenty of water and rest after treatment. Some patients may experience some residual pain or sleepiness, but this is uncommon.

As part of the session, the acupuncturist may also recommend other treatments, including lifestyle changes and herbal medicine, to complement the acupuncture therapy.

Sushi is a global favorite cuisine, but is it healthy? What to know

How long should you do acupuncture?

The number of acupuncture treatments one needs depends on the condition being treated. According to the Mayo Clinic, a common treatment plan includes six to eight treatments with one or two treatments a week. As for how long it takes to see results? Wang says for most patients it takes a few visits to see results. He makes clear – it’s not a quick fix.

Featured Weekly Ad