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Does acupuncture hurt? Should you even consider it? As you age, it’s normal that your health and well-being needs will change and evolve. In an effort to stay healthy and happy, you might seek out complementary and alternative medicine along with your standard course of care. This may include acupuncture.1

Why Consider Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that has been practiced for millennia. Like massage and gua sha, it’s grown more popular in Western medicine in recent decades. Does it work? Clinical studies are limited on the subject, but some people might turn to acupuncture as a way to:

  • Help manage uncomfortable symptoms of pregnancy (morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting)
  • Support joint health
  • Help manage seasonal allergies
  • Support healthy stress levels
  • Support digestive health
  • Support a positive mood 2

The anecdotal evidence is certainly intriguing. But some people might still find acupuncture off-putting – particularly those with a fear of needles. If this is you, learning more about acupuncture, including what a typical acupuncture session is like, could help ease any fears you have. You might even decide to try it for yourself — just speak to your primary care doctor before making that call.

Traditional Chinese Treatment: How Does Acupuncture Work?

It’s easy to understand why some people think acupuncture might be an uncomfortable experience. The practice involves an experienced acupuncture practitioner inserting several thin needles into specific areas of a person’s body.

The underlying belief behind acupuncture is that the body is composed of meridians or pathways. And something called qi (pronounced “chi”) runs through each of these pathways, promoting harmony and balance. The idea is that if there’s a blockage or imbalance in this vital energy, it could manifest as symptoms of illness or general discomfort.

The ultimate goal of acupuncture is to find and isolate these areas of blocked energy and restore the entire system into balance.

To correct and achieve this balance, acupuncture needles are inserted into specific acupuncture points in the body. There are hundreds of established points – each corresponds to different organs and bodily functions. This is no small feat, which is why believers say multiple acupuncture sessions are often necessary.4

Does Acupuncture Hurt? Sensations And Common Side Effects Of Acupuncture

acupuncture in hand | LCR Health

The acupuncture needles themselves are as thin (or thinner) as a strand of hair. This, along with the fact that the needles have blunt tips, is why there should be virtually no discomfort or bleeding when they’re inserted into the skin.4 That said, some patients experience certain sensations during the procedure, including:

  • A slight heaviness
  • A dull throbbing, or a slight twitch or ache at the site or in nearby muscles
  • A slight tingling sensation
  • Warmth near the area of insertion

Acupuncturists would say these sensations are to be expected when your qi (the life force) is being activated or stimulated. Any above-average discomfort should always be reported immediately to your acupuncturist.5

Potential Side Effects

Some people say they feel energized and well-rested after an acupuncture session. Others might experience brief side effects that often resolve throughout continued and consistent sessions. Some patients report:

  • A temporary worsening of symptoms
  • Slight soreness and localized bruising
  • Mild fatigue and lightheadedness 6

If you experience any unusual symptoms, contact your acupuncturist or your doctor immediately.

Holistic Health And Wellness: What To Expect During A Typical Acupuncture Session

It’s important to choose an experienced and reputable acupuncture clinic or practitioner. The acupuncturist typically conducts a brief interview or examination to discuss your health concerns. This will help the practitioner determine which acupuncture points should be stimulated. It will also allow you to ask any questions you might have about the process.

Your acupuncturist’s exam might involve taking your pulse and checking other vital signs. And don’t be surprised if they also check inside your mouth. As it turns out, some acupuncturists can gain valuable insight into a person’s current health status based on the coating of their tongue.

You will then be asked to lie or sit down. The number of needles used varies from patient to patient, or even from session to session. After the needles are inserted, you’ll be encouraged to relax alone in a dimmed room for at least 15-20 minutes. Sometimes, relaxing music and incense are used to create a positive atmosphere.

Depending on the patient’s needs, there are several complementary methods used to enhance the effects of the acupuncture itself.

These include:

  • The use of mild electric currents or warming sticks made of herbal mixtures (known as moxibustion) to activate the needles
  • The practice of cupping to further draw out negative chi
  • Supplementation via Chinese herbs made into tinctures or teas7

After your acupuncture session, you’ll likely be encouraged to rest. Don’t overdo it, even if you do feel good. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t feel better after your first session. Depending on why you’re having acupuncture, It can take multiple sessions over a period of weeks to fully notice a difference.8

Still Have Questions About Acupuncture? Ask Your Doctor

couple acupuncture | LCR Health

More and more people are turning to acupuncture as a way of supplementing their health and wellness regimens as recommended by their primary doctors and family and friends who have had positive experiences with the practice.9

If you’re eager to try acupuncture, first consult with your primary care physician. Ask whether or not the practice could help you with your specific ailments, what tips and tricks you can employ before your first appointment, and if you’re at risk of any complications due to any pre-existing conditions.

Don’t just book any old appointment online. Ask your doctor for a recommendation or head to the best-reviewed alternative medicine clinic in your area. Once you find a highly reputable clinic, consult with a complementary and alternative medicine doctor. This way, you can learn more about the process, and they can assess whether you’ll benefit from acupuncture sessions.

Keep your doctor in the loop. Once you find a reputable, experienced acupuncture practitioner, you’ll be in safe hands.

Learn More:

How To Reduce Stress Naturally: Can You Manage Stress In Natural Ways?

Possible Causes Of Your Joint Discomfort

Possible Causes Of Uric Acid Build Up And Joint Discomfort


Sources
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068720/
2. https://medschool.ucsd.edu/som/fmph/research/cim/clinicalcare/Pages/About-Acupuncture.aspx
3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/156488.php
4. https://clinicalgate.com/acupuncture-in-treatment-of-aging-spine-related-pain-conditions/
5. https://www.healthline.com/health/does-acupuncture-hurt#pain
6 https://www.health.harvard.edu/medical-tests-and-procedures/acupuncture-a-to-z
7. https://www.verywellhealth.com/acupuncture-health-uses-88407
8. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/4767-acupuncture/recovery-and-outlook
9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296189/