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Do the needles hurt?

Most people’s experience of needles is that of those used to give injections, take blood etc. Acupuncture needles differ from these hypodermic syringes in that they are much finer and are solid rather than hollow, they are designed to part the skin without cutting the tissues. Sterile stainless steel needles are commonly used with a diameter of between 0.25mm to 0.45mm which is about the thickness of a human hair.

You may experience a slight prick as the needle penetrates the skin but this is a momentary experience, most people would describe the feeling as virtually painless or no more painful than plucking out a hair. What happens after the needle is inserted is of much more importance and you must provide feedback on what you are feeling to your practitioner. Most people feel a dull ache, tingling or feeling of heaviness or numbness around the area where the needle is, occasionally a mild electrical pulsation radiating away from the site of the needle is felt. Reactions such as these to needling are of vital clinical importance to the Acupuncturist and signify that the Qi has been accessed, i.e. De Chi (pronounced De Chee). The needles are then left in place from 15 to 30 minutes and may be occasionally manipulated by the Practitioner.

Removal of the needles causes no discomfort and minor bleeding may sometimes occur which can be stemmed with a cotton swab. The practitioner may also insert needles into the surface of your ear (Auricular Acupuncture) depending on your condition. Some facial acupoints may bruise after needling so if a minor facial bruise bothers you then tell your practitioner and usually another acupoint can be selected elsewhere on your body. It is vital that you tell your practitioner if you suffer from any diseases transmissible by blood (e.g. HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis etc.) or if you are on any blood thinning medication, these facts should come out during the Case History but you must disclose this to your practitioner.

It is also vital that you tell your practitioner if you are (or even suspect that you might be) pregnant as some acupoints are contraindicated during pregnancy and neither you nor your practitioner will want to take any unnecessary risks with your pregnancy.

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