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What does acupuncture feel like, does acupuncture hurt?

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

Does acupuncture hurt? For people who have never had acupuncture, this is a common and completely normal question. When I thought of needles, before my first acupuncture appointment, I imagined something similar to a needle that was used for injections or taking blood.

Thankfully acupuncture needles are nothing like this. Most are thinner than a strand of hair. Some are only slightly thicker and they are used for specific areas of the body such as the glutes.

Below is a picture of acupuncture needles compared to the hair clip, matchstick and safety pin.

How big are acupuncture needles?

So, what can you expect to feel?

De qi

Below is an assortment of pictures. Each explains a variety of experiences you may have on the insertion of acupuncture needles. All these experiences are a form of de qi. Where the Qi has arrived at a specific acupuncture needle, or indeed a whole channel. None of them should be painful and if you feel anything that isn't quite right then please let your practitioner know.

  • Zhong (heaviness): The area around the needle or the arm or leg feels very heavy

  • Ma (numbness): numbness, buzzing, tingling and electrical sensations. It is useful if these sensations transmit up or down the channel itself. Ma is viewed as being beneficial when there are excess conditions, stagnations and bi (painful obstruction) and wei (atrophy) syndromes

  • Suan (aching or soreness): This soreness feels like lactic acid in the muscles. The sensation can also be transmitted along the channel. This sensation is beneficial in deficient conditions.

  • Itching: itching around the needle or in the skin in the area. My own interpretation of this is that it witnesses the arrival of wei qi. Itching in the skin is due to the release of histamine. Histamine is a part of the body’s immune response, which wei qi can be interpreted as being an aspect of.

  • Kun (tiredness): The area around the needle or the arm or leg feels very relaxed

  • Ra (heat): sensation of warmth in the local area or further up or down the channel

  • Liang (cold): cold sensation in the immediate area around the needle or further up or down the channel. Liang is considered to be beneficial when there is excess Heat or deficient Heat

In Wiseman's experience people who have had frequent acupuncture treatments will feel de qi quicker or or more strongly. This is considered to be a positive sign that Qi is becoming stronger, with less stagnation.

I hope that this has given you a small insight as to what to expect when acupuncture needles are inserted., but as always feel free to drop me a message with any questions.

Love from Andrea

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