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Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

How can it not hurt when multiple needles pierce your skin? Or does it? Read right ahead to find out how acupuncture feels like.
Ishani Chatterjee Shukla
Last Updated: Jan 13, 2018
Being turned into a pin cushion, even if temporarily, is hardly a dream situation for anyone. However, a lot of people voluntarily opt to get quilled in order to take advantage of the potential health benefits of this ancient oriental alternative treatment procedure that we have come to know by the name of Acupuncture. So, does acupuncture hurt? That's the first question which is bound to pop up in the mind of anyone who considers going for acupuncture treatment for the first time. To tell you the truth, there is no single, standard or definite answer to that. Now, you must be wondering what's so complicated about determining if a certain action/procedure hurts or not. Well, the thing is that pain and the extent to which it is felt depends upon a few individual physical and psychological parameters which differ in intensity from person to person. That being said, let's take a closer look at these individual parameters that decide if and how intensely pain manifests in different people to come to an objective conclusion about whether acupuncture hurts.

Does Acupuncture Hurt - A Brief Analysis of Determining Factors

The way and extent to which one person feels pain may be different, marginally or radically, from the way and extent to which another feels physical pain. The factors which decide whether or how much pain one feels are as follows and variations in these decide whether and how much those needles will hurt when you're at the mercy of a professional acupuncturist.

Pain Threshold
This is the most important determining factor when it comes to gaging the intensity of pain. Pain threshold is nothing but an individual's ability to put up with pain and this is measured by the time taken by an individual to feel and express his/her discomfort on being exposed to an action which is capable of inducing physical pain. This is the reason why you might find it impossible to lift a hot object with your bare hands while the person next to you might spill hot coffee over his exposed hand and think nothing of it.

Type of Pain and Part of Body
Pain is a relative term. How much and what kind of pain you feel depends upon which part of your body is exposed to the possible pain-inducing situation. For instance, a soccer ball hitting your shins may not hurt as much as the same ball hitting your nose. Also, based upon the pain-inducing phenomenon, the sensation may differ in feeling as well as intensity. For instance, hitting your head on the kitchen cabinet and spilling hot water on your feet will not feel the same, although both experiences are painful, albeit to different extents and in different ways.

Level of Experience and Expertise
Getting acupuncture done by a thoroughly professional and experienced acupuncturist means that your chances of feeling pain are next to zero. You see, all tactile sensations and their information, including pain, is picked up by nerve endings which are present under the upper layer of the skin. These are then relayed to the brain which determines and classifies these sensations as pleasant or unpleasant, the latter class containing all those sensations that we deem painful or hurtful. Now, when the acupuncturist sticks those needles in your skin along the relevant acupuncture pressure points, the general sensation is similar to that of a single hair being pulled out of the skin. However, since the time taken to stick the needle in is shorter than yanking a hair out, the duration of the sensation and its intensity is lesser than the latter action. This means that on a general note, the prick of an acupuncture needle is less painful than tweezing out a single strand of hair. Even then, the pain lasts only as long as the needle is being inserted in the skin. As soon as it reaches the required depth, the sensation ceases to exist. When done by an experienced, skilled acupuncturist, the possibility of painfulness reduces further. Unless the needles are tampered with after being stuck in the skin, you won't feel any pain throughout the entire duration of your acupuncture session!

Psychological Factors
Once a wimp, always a wimp. If you're programmed to be scared of most things just by imagining impracticably inflated worst-case-scenario situations, then God help you! I mean, if you're one of those who chicken out at the very thought of getting an injection, chances are strong that you'll start whimpering with pain even before the acupuncture needles actually puncture your skin. Believe it or not, the mind is the greatest trickster and if it's programmed for fear, it can easily trick you into feeling "real" physical pain even if the situation at hand is not designed to be painful.

Last but not the least, the design of the needles that are to be stuck in you is also a major determinant of whether and how much pain you'll feel. Being thinner than hypodermic needles, acupuncture needles are capable of entering your skin faster by piercing a smaller dermal surface area. Also, unlike hypodermic needles which are hollow, acupuncture needles are solid and it is a known fact that solid needles hurt less than hollow needles. So, the general verdict is that acupuncture does not really hurt, speaking with reference to duration and intensity of physical discomfort. Also, depending upon the different types of pressure points pricked, some areas of the skin hurt even less than others. So, the overall tactile experience feels just about as painful as mosquito bites without the nasty itch. Also, the relaxation and therapeutic benefits that are reaped afterwards are well worth it!