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Does Acupuncture Hurt? That’s a loaded question. It depends on a multitude of factors, including body area being needled, personal pain thresholds, your hydration, if you are well-rested, if you are a woman and you are experiencing PMS or in your cycle, and…psychology. Yes, psychology.

As practitioners at Total Health, we never underestimate the psychology involved with needles and what the patient may feel. That is, hands down, the number one factor as to whether a patient feels discomfort during needling. Many patients may have had bad experiences with needles as a child that they carry with them into adulthood, and others may have had addiction issues. There are as many factors as there are individuals. Therefore, we never tell patients that Acupuncture does not hurt. After all, we are placing a sharp, shiny metal object into the body.

Moreover, many Western patients have never had acupuncture before and they may experience a number of completely normal sensations associated with what is known as “De Qi,” even after the needles have been inserted. Here are some “De Qi” sensations that may occur during insertion and with retention:

  • Nothing
  • Electric shock ‘sensation’
  • Burning
  • Heaviness
  • Pulsing
  • Stinging
  • Dull ache
  • Tugging

While many of these sensations may persist during treatment, many of them begin to dissipate promptly. If one feels a prolonged burning or stinging during treatment, please let the practitioner know and the needle will be removed and/or reinserted.

Acupuncture needles are very different than the ones used in Western medicine. For instance, Acupuncturists use filiform needles, which are thin, flexible, and solid. This is very different than the hypodermic needles, which are a lot thicker, inflexible, and hollow. 20 acupuncture needles can fit into 1 conventional hypodermic needle. Some compare the thickness of the acupuncture needles to a cat’s whisker. Here is a photo comparing the scale and thickness of the acupuncture needles:

Whether the needles hurt or not is also dependent upon factors such as: size of needles, body area being needled, and the depth of insertion.

Size of needles: Needles vary according to length and width (gauge). Majority are 1” needles.
Body area: Areas with more tissue and muscle mass tend to be less sensitive. Areas where there is less tissue and muscle mass, like feet and hands, tend to be more sensitive.
Depth of insertion: Superficial insertion can sometimes be just as sensitive as deep insertion, so it depends.


For the most part, acupuncture is very gentle and delicate, and while you may feel some sensations, most of them are an intended elicitation of ‘de qi,’ as opposed to pain. It should be noted that many people engage in many Western modalities that are far more painful than Acupuncture, such as: Botox, micro blading, tattoos, etc.

To learn more about acupuncture, or schedule a free consultation to see if this service is right for you, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our offices.

Click here to contact us.

*Total Health offers Acupuncture in Florham Park and Berkeley Heights.
*Acupuncture is covered by most insurances.
*Cash and package options are available.