The needling question about acupuncture


Over the years I’ve come to realize that the number one, all important, billion dollar question in everyone’s mind when you bring up acupuncture is, “Does it hurt?”


Sure they may ask what acupuncture is good for; can it help with weight loss; does it work (?); how many treatments will it take; but what they’re really thinking is “Go on, be honest it hurts like heck, doesn’t it?”


I explain that the insertion of needle is swift but the more important sensation we’re aiming for is that of “de qi” which, while not painful, can be quite strange for those first-timers. Generally I’ve learned that people having acupuncture for the first time expect the worst and are almost pleasantly surprised.

Ironically the most awkward moment I’ve ever had in a first consultation was with a patient who had had acupuncture before, from a physiotherapist. As it turns out, what she’d had all this time was dry needling (also known as trigger point dry needling or medical acupuncture) which is completely separate from traditional acupuncture. The two share no common ground besides the actual insertion of needles so you can imagine my patient’s surprise when she felt the heavy dull ache and busy “activity” of de qi during her treatment.


The best descriptions of a traditional acupuncture session, I find, are those from the point of view of the receiver, you the patient. You tell me about your anxieties and nervousness, we work together to steady the breathing, you give me the cue to continue our chat or we have an easy silence. I recently came across a blog about three women on their fertility journeys and I think this particular blog post of an acupuncture treatment describes the feeling completely. 


Photo credit: Ernest Vikne via flickr

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3 thoughts on “The needling question about acupuncture

  1. Pingback: Five days of acupuncture | The Happy Acupuncturist

  2. Pingback: Needles, In Your Face | The Acupunc

  3. Pingback: Five misconceptions about acupuncture | The Happy Acupuncturist

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