Many are concerned about this question: Acupuncture, does it hurt?
Often you will see acupuncture needles described as hair-thin. That is actually not very accurate. The needles are very thin indeed though. If you have a friend who is a doctor or nurse, you can ask them about our needle size. Our needles are generally either 32 or 36 gauge, and we do have thinner needles available. I promise if you ask your doctor what they think about this size needle, she is going to smile…they are really really thin.
So what is it supposed to feel like? I usually tell my new patients the following joke:
If you go for acupuncture in Japan, they think if it hurts at all, that the doctor is no good. However if you go for acupuncture in China, they think if it doesn’t hurt at least a little bit, not only is the doctor no good, but he’s just taking your money!
Point here, that among many Japanese acupuncturists it is thought that you put the needle in and let it be. They think your body knows what to do with it. Chinese acupuncturists, however, think putting the needle in and then gently manipulate it is the preferred methodology. The thought here is we move the needle and this causes a response in the body which calls upon the function of this acupuncture point. When we move the needles we are seeking what we refer to as De Qi or “the arrival of Qi.” Qi is the body’s natural electrical life force. If you are not ready to believe in Qi, that is alright…you can think of the body’s naturally occurring positively and negatively charged ions, another kind of Qi. This De Qi or Qi sensation feels like a dull ache, distension, soreness, pressure, or tingling. We experience the world through our hands and feet, so some points here may be a little more sensitive. You may occasionally experience a “Zing,” where a strong sensation is felt and travels down a finger or toe or from one place to another. Stronger Qi sensation, it is not a mistake. This Zing usually passes instantly in a second or two. If a point is uncomfortable let us know immediately, and we will adjust or remove the needle immediately.
So what do I do? Generally, if a patient is coming in for pain, I may elect to use a slightly thicker needle and manipulate the needle more strongly than say, if they were coming in for infertility or stress or anxiety. Why? Because I have found that a stronger Qi sensation is going to relieve your pain more quickly. For folks coming in for pain, the degree of discomfort experienced from the acupuncture treatment is still relatively mild compared to the pain they want to get rid of.
Nearly everyone can receive acupuncture. Even if you are afraid of needles, we can nearly always select the best needle size and manipulation style to suit your needs and make you comfortable. We do not always manipulate the needles and if you find the sensation unpleasant we can avoid the manipulation all together. Great results are gotten using acupuncture in both China and Japan, so there is always more than one way to give you an effective treatment.
In general, most people leave acupuncture treatments feeling extremely calm and centered. The experience is similar to the feeling you have after a wonderful massage, but uniquely different….the only way to know what I mean is to give it a try! Believe it or not some of our patients even fall asleep on the table.
Keep an eye out for Liz’s video as she talks about how well she has done with Oscar’s gentle acupuncture treatments despite her phobia of needles.
Acupuncture is like a day at the Beach!