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Is Acupuncture painful?

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

You’ve sprained your ankle. Your family and friends recommend you to try acupuncture. However, you’ve also heard rumours that acupuncture hurts, which makes you averse to trying it out. So instead, you grit your teeth and bear with the pain of the sprained ankle. Is acupuncture really that painful? Is there any way to make it less scary? Read on to find out!

Acupuncture can alleviate many conditions!

The answer to the above questions is both no and yes. I know you might be saying "what?", but hear me out. You might have had an injection in the hospital before and it hurt. The syringe needles that are used for injection are around 6 to 8mm thick. When the syringe enters your skin, the piercing sensation is perceptible, and can really hurt.

However, in contrast, acupuncture needles are only 0.2mm in thickness, which is about a 95% reduction in thickness from an average syringe needle! When a trained Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician inserts the acupuncture needle into your skin with a swift and precise manoeuvre, you will practically not feel a single thing.

That brings me to the next part of the story, on why it is "painful". After the acupuncture needle has passed your skin (or epidermis layer), the acupuncture needle will be pushed deeper in. Once the needle reaches the acupuncture point, you will start to feel a sore, tingling sensation (or 酸麻感 in Chinese). This sensation is akin to the feeling when you try to rub or massage any ‘blue-blacks’/bruises on your skin. This is termed the needle sensation (or 针感 in Chinese).

The needle sensation is generally not painful. However, a small number of people might have a greater sensitivity to the needle sensation, and intensely stimulating the acupuncture point will cause pain. Hence, if you feel that the sensation is too strong, just inform your TCM physician and they will release the needle slightly out of your skin, reducing the sensation.

After reading the above, we hope that you are now convinced to try acupuncture! Before going for it, here are some tips to have a pleasant acupuncture experience.

1. Have a light meal before going for acupuncture. This can help you calm your nerves down. Also, it can help prevent you from fainting from low blood sugar.

2. Go to a TCM physician that you trust, as the perception of pain can be a psychological thing.

3. You can voluntarily cough at the moment when the TCM physician is inserting the needle. This is a good way to divert your attention away from and hence lessen the sensation.

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