What does Acupuncture feel like?

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Acupuncture needles are ultra fine and as thin as a human hair. All Acupuncture needles used in our Hobart clinic are sterilised single use disposable needles made of the highest quality stainless steel.

The unique shape,thinness and manufacturing quality of an Acupuncture needle, means that there isn’t typically any damage to the skin. Because if you magnified the tip of an Acupuncture needle, it is a smooth and round cone shaped tip,  in the form of something as thin and fine as a strand of human hair.

Acupuncture needles are so thin and fine, that you could fit around 30 into the chamber of a hyperdermic needle (6).

Image of Acupuncture needle versus hair

But what does it feel like?

You may not even feel the insertion of the needle, but occasionally, there can be the sensation of something like a mosquito bite. The sensation are due to proprioreceptors and nociceptors located at the surface of the dermis/epidermis(4).

The sensations you might notice during an Acupuncture treatment are:

Aching

Heaviness

Numbness or Tingling

The sensations you feel during your first treatment (read about what your first Acupuncture treatment looks like here) are not static and may change in intensity and nature. For example, one point my feel stronger than another point and as you are relaxing the intensity might increase, plateau and change or move to different areas of the body.

The types of sensation are not fully understood by any particular mechanisms, however it could be said that due to both fast and slow propogation nerve axon pathways (unmyelinated vs myelinated axons), along with the combination of muscular responses, motor point activation, trigger point referral patterns, with increased blood flow and changes in sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, that multiple sensations present to your consciousness during an Acupuncture session.

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There are physiological changes happening in the body with the insertion of Acupuncture needles, including the release of hormones like oxytocin (the love hormone) (7), vasodilation of blood vessels, increased blood flow to certain areas of the body and breathing pattern changes in the body due to the body shifting into alternative “rest and digest” states of the nervous system.

When the body comes out of the sympathetic nervous system into the parasympathetic, a more relaxed state can allow the body to focus on rest and recovery mechanisms.

The time it takes to insert the needles is very brief, and once they have been inserted patients are left to relax for between 20-30 minutes, to allow the treatment to take effect. Essentially, we are focusing on moving blood, oxygen and fluids throughout the channel network of the body.

The insertion of needles can differ to typical “dry needling” methods, which are generally viewed as uncomfortable or painful, although a registered Acupuncturist has the skills to bring these methods within treatment protocols if you so choose.

There can occasionally be post treatment soreness following Acupuncture treatments, especially if there has been release or activation of muscles, trigger points, or motor points.

Typically, the insertion of a needle only takes about 1-2 seconds and is then left in place for between 15-30 minutes. Sometimes a certain treatment point may only be stimulated briefly to get the desired effect on that Channel or muscle group, or to stimulate a certain response in the body. We won't go into how Acupuncture is more effective when viewed as a course of treatment.

The beauty of Acupuncture is that the insertion of the needle is 2 x seconds, but the response of the body from Acupuncture might last for days or longer when attempting to balance out the various systems that Chinese Medicine focuses on during the treatment phase.

Most often, it’s the actual thought of the needle that is a thousand times worse than the actual process of Acupuncture, Because the mind has the unique ability of multiplying and magnifying thoughts.

Once all the needles are positioned and the patient is comfortable, they can relax for a while and “let the needles to do the work”.

 

Chad Wuest: Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner in Hobart Tasmania.

REFERENCES:

1: https://healthinflow.com.au/why-acupuncture-doesnt-hurt/ – Electron Microscope magnifies images of Acupuncture needle points

2: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140213083714.htm – RMIT study on the surface of Acupuncture needles – Charlie Xue

3: twitter.com/yoonclinic_/status/1167934633255682050?s=20 – YoonClinic – Picture of Needle vs Hair

4: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2964977/ – Nociceptors: the sensors of the pain pathway
Adrienne E. Dubin1 and Ardem Patapoutian

5: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0143417907000522 – Effect of oxytocin on acupuncture analgesia in the rat,
JunYangaYuYanga, Jian-MinChenaWen, YanLiubChen, HaiWangcBao, ChengLinc

6: https://jenniferroseacupuncture.com/how-tiny-is-an-acupuncture-needle/ – How many Acupuncture Needles fit into a Hypodermic needle

7: https://www.healthline.com/health/love-hormone#motherhood – Oxytocin, the love hormone

8: https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/learning-rewires-brain – Image of Nerve, axon

9: https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/ss/slideshow-acupuncture-overview – Acupuncture Needle tip