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Many patients ask if acupuncture needles hurt when inserted into the body. This inquiry is relevant and common to almost everybody interested in getting an acupuncture treatment. We felt it was important to take some time to provide information about acupuncture needles and how they feel when used by a licensed acupuncturist.

What are acupuncture needles made out of?
Modern acupuncture needles are made out of stainless steel and come in various lengths and gauges of width. Acupuncture needles have a stainless steel shaft, with a handle made out of copper, steel or plastic.

How thick are acupuncture needles?
Needle thickness is a something many patients are curious about; there is a belief that the thicker the needle the more potential for pain. The thickness of the needle used for treatment depends on a variety of conditions ranging from the acupuncturist’s preference to the specific ailment being treated.

Acupuncture needles are solid with a fine point, unlike hypodermic needles that are hollow and primarily used for intramuscular injections or for drawing blood. Hypodermic needles have a sharp cutting-edge point, something that acupuncture needles do not have. A helpful comparison is that most acupuncture needles are so thin that you can fit about 10 of them inside the shaft of a hypodermic needle.

Who is allowed to use acupuncture needles?
While it is true that acupuncture needles can be purchased by people other than acupuncturists, it is strongly advised that you only allow a licensed acupuncturist to needle you. Please note that chiropractors, naturopaths and physical therapists are not licensed acupuncturists. They may perform acupuncture (or “dry needling”) but in reality acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine that is performed by licensed acupuncturists who have extensive and thorough training.  A licensed acupuncturist has attended acupuncture school, has a master’s degree, a  professional license and is required to have thousands of hours of training.

Do acupuncture needles hurt?
When patients receive an acupuncture treatment for the first time they often report having a variety of sensations. Some people describe feeling a dull ache, a tingling or pulsating sensation or experience nothing at all. There are other people who state that they feel a small pinch when the needle is inserted but the sensation dissipates quickly.

Very rarely will a patient report feeling any pain after a needle is inserted; if so, it will quickly be removed. Pain isn’t something that should be felt or elicited, in fact a common reason acupuncture needles are used in the body is to alleviate pain. What is more common is that patients will state that they will feel some discomfort after being needled but after they settle in and relax the sensation soon passes.

If you’ve been thinking about getting acupuncture but have been worried about whether or not it hurts, we hope that this blog post helped to alleviate some of those fears. If you have any questions or concerns please contact our clinic at your convenience.

Written  by Paul Kerzner