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Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Is acupuncture painful? Here’s the truth (according to science)

You’ve tried every medication to treat your chronic pain but nothing seems to work.

You are feeling frustrated and defeated. You wonder if anything will bring you relief from your symptoms. You might even be ready to throw in the towel with tall this alternative medicine stuff.

But, you’ve stumbled upon acupuncture and are interested. Maybe you’ve read some of the scientific articles that share just how effective it is. You’re excited about what it can do for you.

But, you’re also worried about acupuncture. Especially the needles! You’re worried that it’ll be really, really painful and not worth it.

Here’s an interesting piece of information (before we jump into the science of the article) – when performed by a licensed practitioner acupuncture actually can feel good!

Keep reading to learn more about acupuncture and how it makes you feel relieved, relaxed and satisfied. And, you’ll learn what acupuncture ACTUALLY feels like.

Is acupuncture supposed to hurt?

No! Acupuncture is not supposed to hurt! Many patients report feeling calm, at peace and energized after acupuncture treatment.

But what do acupuncture patients say about how it feels DURING their treatment?   

Pain tolerance varies so some people may feel slight pain usually described as a throbbing or tingling sensation during an acupuncture session. But often what people are experiencing is not defined as “pain.” They’re different sensations and experiences that are SUPPOSED to be felt during the healing process of acupuncture. Many people come to love these sensations. These sensations should not be excruciating but more like a mild discomfort.

It can be described as feeling heavy (almost as if a weight is being added to your skin) or achy. Sometimes there can be a bit of burning as well. But, we’ll get into this a little more in a later section.

Just know that it is very uncommon for acupuncture to be painful or uncomfortable.  

Why does acupuncture not hurt? They’re putting needles in you!

Yes, patients undergoing acupuncture literally have needles inserted into the body so how is it possible this treatment doesn’t hurt?

Forget what you know about needles and medicine. Acupuncture needles are very different than traditional medical needles.

The needles used during acupuncture are extremely thin with a round edge so they don’t cut the skin.

Many patients say they barely feel the needles being inserted during acupuncture treatment.

Close-up of senior female back with steel needles during procedure of the acupuncture therapy

What does acupuncture feel like?

If you’re considering acupuncture, you’re probably wondering what it feels like to have needles inserted into your body.

Acupuncture can cause a heavy, throbbing or twitching feeling which are all positive responses to the treatment.


During acupuncture, some people claim that they feel like a weight is being added to their skin. It’s almost as if the tiny needle weighs 100x the weight.

This sensation isn’t dangerous or bad. It’s actually supposed to happen.


Throbbing can happen during acupuncture. Throbbing can definitely be uncomfortable, but it’s a different type of throbbing than the traditional throbbing that comes with a lot of pain.


Sometimes burning sensations can occur during acupuncture. These are nothing to worry about. Although uncomfortable, they’re rarely referred to as painful.

Your first acupuncture session may feel more intense than future treatments because certain energy points are being activated for the first time.

Does acupuncture feel good?

Pain often causes lower levels of endorphins (feel-good hormones), once these endorphins are released during acupuncture pain sensations can be suppressed providing much-needed relief.

Acupuncture releases endorphins into the body which triggers a positive euphoric feeling bringing a sense of peace and happiness.

Acupuncture can also cause a dull ache, mild tingling or warming sensation leaving patients with an overall pleasant, satisfying feeling.

What does it mean when acupuncture hurts?

As stated above pain tolerance varies however acupuncture should not be painful. If you are experiencing extreme pain during an acupuncture treatment it could indicate a problem.

Painful acupuncture can be caused by the use of a needle that is too large. Acupuncture needles vary in size but are generally no wider than a strand of hair. If your acupuncturist is using a large gauge needle it may cause pain and maybe the wrong size.

Another cause of painful acupuncture could be a needle that has hit a blood vessel or nerve.

There is a small group of people that are unable to tolerate acupuncture, mostly those with bleeding disorders or pacemakers. If you have either of these conditions consult with your acupuncturist prior to treatment.

Does acupuncture hurt after treatment?

After treatment, many patients experience an emotional release, lightheadedness, fatigue, muscle twitching, bruising, soreness. These are all common effects of acupuncture and should not be cause for concern.

It is extremely rare for patients to experience severe complications after acupuncture. According to the World Health Organization, only 0.024% of patients experience serious adverse effects from acupuncture.

How to prepare for your acupuncture treatment

Acupuncture should be a relaxing calming treatment so don’t schedule an appointment before or after strenuous or stressful events in the day.

Eat something light at least two hours prior to your session. Overeating never feels good and an empty stomach could leave you feeling lightheaded and dizzy during acupuncture.

Avoid coffee and alcohol prior to your acupuncture treatment. These substances can counteract the effects of the treatment.

Wear loose comfortable clothes and remember to relax and allow the energy and chi to flow through your body.

Acupuncture Treatment in Las Vegas

Now that you know acupuncture doesn’t hurt…

You can check out our Las Vegas acupuncturist on this page or you can click on the “Book An Appointment” button in the upper right-hand corner to schedule a session. Our licensed acupuncturists will work with you to develop a positive effective treatment plan designed specifically for you!

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