Acupuncture is an ancient form of medicine that has gained in popularity in the west. It’s used to help treat a variety of issues people face. The World Health Organization even has a huge list of diseases and disorders for which acupuncture has been found to be beneficial in controlled studies. You can find that list here.
Perhaps the most common question newcomers to acupuncture have is if it hurts. We’ll also answer the second most common question surrounding how effective acupuncture actually is according to the research. But first, does acupuncture hurt?
Should Acupuncture Hurt?
This is a common concern that people who are new to acupuncture have. The idea of being poked with a bunch of tiny needles may seem scary and painful. To offer a short answer, no. Acupuncture should not hurt. Almost everyone who goes the first time reports little or no pain at all. Where there is pain, it’s usually a momentary discomfort that goes away.
Is it really possibel that getting poked with needles is painless? Yes. The needles are tinier than any needle you’ve seen in your life. Furthermore, the acupuncturist will be targeting specific areas in your body. They know where to insert the needles, and will likely do a full assessment before even starting.
The College of Traditional Chines Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists gives a great overview of what to expect when visiting an acupuncturist. They insist that you should not feel pain. In fact, many people fall asleep (like I did my first few times) as it is so relaxing. You may also feel a pleasant tingling, warmth, or heaviness as the muscles relax.
If there is pain while having an acupuncture treatment, there’s a problem. Tell your acupuncturist immediately. Momentary discomfort is normal, but pain is generally not. Unless your acupuncturist warns you that something may hurt a little bit, you should always tell them about the pain.
Does Acupuncture Work?
People go to acupuncture for a variety of conditions. Common ones include chronic pain, sports injuries, stress, and insomnia. Others go to stimulate their sex life, to treat kratom withdrawal, or to help in any number of ways. Although people tout the benefits of acupuncture with anecdotal evidence, does it actually work?
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, we have a lot of research to suggest acupuncture can specifically help with certain pain conditions. However, they point out that research about other health issues is uncertain at this time. Overall, their conclusion is that there is sufficient research to support the statement that acupuncture can help treat pain, especially of the neck and back.
One other thing acupuncture has been found to actually help is stress. There are many ways we cope with stress, and many of them aren’t healthy. Acupuncture may be an effective way to help lessen stress in your life, whether it’s from work, family, or anything else in your life. One study found a decrease in physiological stress, and others have come up with similar findings.
It’s important to note that other reputable websites, doctors, and sources believe acupuncture to be ineffective. Some believe it is just a placebo effect. For example, ScienceBasedMedicine.org has a lengthy article about the science behind acupuncture, arguing that it is pre-scientific, lacks a mechanism, and doesn’t have the research to support it.
When all is said and done, we don’t have a clear answer about whether or not acupuncture truly works. At the very least, it seems to reduce pain and stress, even if this is attributable to the placebo effect. If you combine acupuncture with other methods of self-care such as yoga, mindfulness exercises, and healthy eating, you may notice better outcomes.