Acupuncture is one of the most well-known treatments in the Western world that comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine. While acupuncture has been used as a principle of TCM for thousands of years, it is relatively new, especially in the UK, where Western medicine is so valued. If you are curious to learn more of the basics of acupuncture, we encourage you to read about it in our introduction to acupuncture


In this article, we are going to go a little deeper into what to expect the first time you try acupuncture. First, here’s our guide on how to prepare for your first acupuncture appointment.


Now that you’ve prepared for your visit and know what to expect, let’s talk about the burning question everyone has their first time: What does acupuncture feel like? 

 

What does Acupuncture Feel Like?

As you probably know by now, acupuncture consists of placing hair-thin needles into specific acupuncture points around the body, with the intention of treating and preventing specific ailments, from psychological to physical. Acupuncture points are places where blood, lymph, and connective tissues meet and are considered energy channels. Some points will make sense, for example points in the jaw to treat jaw pain. Other points may seem odd, such as points in your legs to treat stress. 


As long as you are going to an experienced, licensed acupuncturist, you can trust that they will pick the best points for your complaint, as well as any underlying conditions that may be affecting your wellbeing. These points are chosen based on a physical exam, which includes feeling the quality of the pulse and checking the tongue and a thorough understanding of your medical history. 


However, the question remains...


Does Acupuncture Hurt? 

Most people do not feel pain during acupuncture. There are a lot of factors, of course. Different acupuncture points may feel more uncomfortable than others. Some might even feel a bit sharp or painful when they first insert the needles, but that feeling usually goes away as the acupuncture does its job. Please remember to tell your acupuncturist if any needles or points are painful, as a needle may need to be adjusted. 


Generally speaking, though, acupuncture does not hurt. So, if it doesn’t hurt, then what does acupuncture feel like? 


Acupuncture can feel heavy

You might feel like there is a weight on the point where the needle was placed. That weight may stay there or feel like it is spreading slightly. However, most people describe this weight as feeling soothing rather than claustrophobic. Sometimes that pressure may throb a bit at the beginning, or even throughout your treatment. This aching, throbbing sensation is usually stronger with points in the hands and feet. If the ache is too much for you, feel free to tell your acupuncture practitioner and they can help. 


Acupuncture can feel tingly 

Sometimes it can feel like a little zap of electricity when a needle is first inserted, though this sensation is usually very fleeting. Other times, acupuncture points may feel a slight tingle off and on as you are resting with the needles. 


One technique that acupuncturists use in their treatment is connecting mild electric current to some needles, which may give you a slight sensation. 


Acupuncture can feel warm 

Often, a couple minutes after inserting an acupuncture needle, you’ll feel warmth spreading out from the point. It’s not a burning sensation, rather a pleasantly warm feeling. Needles can also be heated specifically during the treatment. 


Some stranger sensations from acupuncture 

Some people laugh or cry when receiving acupuncture. This is because acupuncture targets energy points in the body, which connect the whole body with the nervous system and the rest of the body in general. When this does happen, people say it can creep up on you, either the urge to cry or laugh and eventually builds up to an uncontrollable sensation. When the body sheds this kind of energy, the most common thing for it to do after is fall asleep. 


Of course, some people just fall asleep during the session as well. 

 

In Conclusion, what does acupuncture feel like? 

It often feels like nothing. It often feels intangibly relaxing. And when it does feel like something specific, it’s brief or light. But the most important thing to know before trying acupuncture is that there is nothing to fear. It’s the most relaxing moment in your week for the vast majority of those who enjoy its healing benefits. 

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