Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Here’s what you can expect with Traditional Chinese Medicine. From needles to techniques, all you need to know — does acupuncture hurt? 

Panda clinic's panda logo  by Panda Clinic – Aug. 19, 2021

Acupuncturist placing acupuncture needle into patient's arm

In this post, you’re going to find answers to some of the most common questions we get about acupuncture.

We will give you a deeper understanding of this popular Traditional Chinese Medicine therapy, in the hope that it will calm your nerves.

Acupuncturist placing needle into patient's arm during acupuncture session

So if you’re looking to try out alternative medicine, acupuncture is a great introduction.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture is an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which dates back more than 2,000 years.

Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe that the human body has more than 2,000 points of acupuncture interconnected by pathways or meridians.

Meridians are pathways within the body through which energy flows and which are accessible at about 350 acupuncture points throughout the body. These pathways generate energy flows in the body, or qi (pronounced chi), which are responsible for overall health.

The goal of acupuncture is to balance your body’s energy flow and remove energy blockages. As a result, this helps regulate your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Acupuncture stimulates specific acupoints along the body. The mechanism for stimulating acupuncture points is to penetrate the skin with thin metal needles or manipulate the needles to stimulate electrical stimulation (electroacupuncture). The majority of people experience minimal discomfort as long as the fine needles are placed correctly. 

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

A common misconception about acupuncture is that it hurts. New patients tend to worry that acupuncture might be painful because they are afraid of needles.

Many people have had fears or aversion to needles since childhood, or have had bad experiences in the doctor’s office or when donating blood.

Most patients being treated with this complementary therapy don’t feel anything.

When the needle touches a small nerve, muscle, or blood vessel, patients may experience a ‘chi sensation’. This is commonly misinterpreted as a sort of pain or jolt when in reality they are a positive response.

However, everyone’s pain tolerance, and overall sensitivity, are different. When the needle touches a small nerve, muscle, or blood vessel, you may feel pain or a mild sensation. Some practitioners use more force or a heavier technique to insert the needle. You can ask your acupuncturist to use fewer needles, use them more slowly, or manipulate them with less force.

People who experience mild pain often describe a throbbing or tingling sensation during an acupuncture session. It is often described as feeling as if a heavyweight has been applied to the skin and is mildly uncomfortable.

Depending on your overall feeling the day of treatment, if you are hungry, dehydrated, or did not sleep well, the needles can sometimes be more uncomfortable.

Your initial acupuncture treatment may be more painful than your follow-up as certain energy points in the body are activated for the first time.

Each experience is different, and acupuncture does not always cause discomfort or pain. 

Do Needles Have To Be Used?


For some people, the thought of needles can be too much.

For people looking to get the benefit of acupuncture — without the needles, there is Acupressure Massage.

Acupressure is a technique that uses trigger points in muscles and soft tissues. A trigger point is a neuromuscular point where muscles and nerves meet.

With acupressure, manual pressure is applied with the fingertips to certain points of the body. It stimulates pain relief and muscle relaxation. These points can help relieve pain, relieve tension, and improve recovery.

For those looking to avoid needles, Acupressure is a great replacement.

How Long Does The Treatment Last?

Typically an acupuncture session lasts anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.

Some of that time will be spent discussing past medical history and reasons for your visit.

Needles will be kept in the skin for anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. During this time many people feel so relaxed they drift off to sleep.

Who Performs Acupuncture?

Licensed Acupuncturists from the CTCMA, BC’s only governing body for the practice of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

ctcma acupuncture certification logo

Registered Acupunturists

Meet Our Acupunturists

Meicha Wang

Meicha Wang

Registered Acupuncturist

Meicha is a Registered Acupuncturist at our Burnaby location

Jordan Chang

Jordan Chang

Registered Acupuncturist

Jordan is a Registered Acupuncturist & Registered Massage Therapist at our New Westminster location

Alyssa Mendoza

Alyssa Mendoza

Registered Acupunturist

Alyssa is  a Registered Acupuncturist at our White Rock location