While acupuncture usually does not hurt, it can cause other sensations. Usually these sensations are a sign that the acupuncture is working and that we are activating the point to produce a healing effect. These sensations are typically very mild. So what does acupuncture feel like?
Here are 5 common sensations that you may feel when getting acupuncture.
1. The insertion: a brief pin prick or pinching sensation.
Most of the time during an acupuncture treatment, you won’t even feel the needles being inserted. However, you may a brief pin prick or pinching sensation when the needle is first inserted, depending on the area of the body. Why? Most of our sensory nerves are located on the surface of our skin and so this is our most sensitive area. Places where we have more sensory nerves such as our hands and feet will be more sensitive to the needles, whereas places like the back with very few sensory nerves will be less sensitive. Once the needle has been inserted through the surface of the skin, this sensation will go away.
How much sensation you feel also depends on the person. Some people are more sensitive than others and you may find that you are more sensitive on some days than others depending on your mood or if you are feeling emotional, overtired, stressed, or run down. The good news is that once the needles are in place, they start having a counter effect to all of these feelings!
2. A heavy or achy feeling
Often times people will feel a mild heavy and/or achy feeling when an acupuncture point is needled. This is a good sign- Acupuncturists call this sensation “de qi” or “finding the qi”. It literally means that we have activated the acupuncture point and tapped into the body’s energetic network. Creating this stimulation at the needling site yields a stronger effect from acupuncture and makes for a more effective treatment.
Finding the qi can can feel heavy like a weight being placed on the area. There can also be an achy sensation, particularly if we are needling sore, tight muscles or musculoskeletal conditions. The feeling is similar to that of a sore muscle being massaged. The sensation usually subsides after a few moments, but occasionally a point will ache or throb throughout the treatment. This is normal but if it becomes uncomfortable or too strong, let your Acupuncturist know so that he or she can adjust the stimulation for a more relaxing and comfortable treatment.
3. Tingly or electrical feeling
Sometimes acupuncture can cause you to feel an electrical sensation. It can be a short, sudden jolt at the moment when the Acupuncturists “finds the qi”, a feeling almost like a zap of electricity travelling down the path of the meridian. This again is a normal sensation that tells us that we have activated the acupuncture point, and the feeling usually goes as quickly as it came.
Another common feeling is a tingly, buzzing, or “pins and needles” sensation during acupuncture. Sometimes people feel a tingly sensation at the point of the acupuncture needle or throughout the body. Other people feel an electrical sensation travelling along the path of meridian that the point is located on. Again, these are normal sensations that tell us that the acupuncture is hard at work. Usually they are mild but again, if a sensation ever feels intense or uncomfortable, let your Acupuncturist know.
4. Sensation of heat or warmth
Sometimes acupuncture will cause a warm feeling at the site of the needle or a flowing, relaxed feeling along the path of the meridian, almost as if something is releasing. This makes sense: acupuncture encourages our body’s circulation of energy and blood and sometimes you can actually feel a blockage being released or an increase in circulation.
5. Sharp or burning? Let your acupuncturist know.
Acupuncture should never be sharp or painful. When an acupuncture needle gets inserted, it’s common to feel the sensation of a pin prick or pinch, but this feeling should go away once the needle has passed through the surface of the skin.
If you feel sharpness or burning beyond the level of a pin prick or pinching sensation, tell your acupuncturist. This is usually a sign that the acupuncture needle has been placed improperly and needs adjusting. It happens occasionally and is not a cause for concern- but it is important to let your acupuncturist know so that they can make adjustments to ensure you are comfortable and relaxed during treatment.
If you ever feel any discomfort, don’t hesitate to tell your Acupuncturist. A skilled Acupuncturist is very good at minimizing discomfort so that you can have a relaxed and enjoyable experience and discover the incredible benefits of acupuncture!
Okanagan Acupuncture Centre is located downtown Kelowna at 1625 Ellis St.