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Is Acupuncture Painful?

Updated: Jun 24, 2023


Most people realize that acupuncture is done by inserting thin, sterile needles into specific points on the body. No one really likes the thought of needles being inserted into their skin. It is understandable, this may come from years of personal experiences, sometimes negative, of getting needles at the doctors office or medical testing lab.


This experience with needles in the past, means that some people with health concerns are afraid to get an acupuncture treatment. They associate needles with a negative experience. That is truly unfortunate, because these people don't get the opportunity to experience the significant benefits that acupuncture may bring to their life.


So needles can be painful, but what about acupuncture, is it painful?


I have personally inserted millions of acupuncture needles into patients during my career. Although each patient have slightly different responses, most feel only a slight prick or pinch when the needle is inserted, while others may experience a mild tingling or numbness around the needle insertion site. This sensation is generally brief and fades quickly as the needles are adjusted and positioned by the acupuncturist.


You might be asking why you then feel pain when you get a needle at the doctor's office, a needle is a needle, right?

Acupuncture needles.
Comparing size of acupuncture needles.

Well, there is a reason. Acupuncture needles are really, really thin, typically ranging from 0.12 to 0.35 millimeters in diameter. I realize these numbers don't mean anything unless you can see that thickness with your own eyes.


I took this picture to allow you to make your own comparison. The first needle is a facial acupuncture needle. As you can see, this needle is much shorter, but still very thin. The second needle is a typical acupuncture needle. The third item in the picture is a strand of human hair. The fourth item is a small sewing needle. I put the pen in there so you can get a sense of scale.


As you can see, the acupuncture needles are only slightly thicker than a human hair, and much thinner than a small sewing needle. It is because of this thin diameter that you shouldn't feel pain when the needle is inserted. Sometimes the needle touches a superficial nerve upon insertion. If that happens, let your acupuncturist know and they will adjust the needle.


Now you understand why acupuncture isn't painful like some of your visits to the doctor office. Hopefully, this will reduce your fear and allow you to experience the significant benefits that acupuncture can bring to your life.


If you want to give acupuncture a try, please call our Mississauga clinic.


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