Fear Not! ; Why You Don't Need to Be Afraid of Acupuncture Needles

I hear it every single day (usually from big dudes with beards and tattoos).  "There is no way I'd get acupuncture. I'm terrified of needles." 

I'll let you in on a secret. I was afraid of needles, too. A tattooed acupuncturist afraid of needles? Yup. But it turns out, acupuncture actually feels awesome. 


Teeny Tiny Poky Helper (actual image...obviously) 

We are so used to the big sharp needles that are used for shots or to draw blood that we forget (or perhaps we don't know) that acupuncture needles aren't remotely the same thing! I almost wish we had a better name for them (maybe "teeny skinny poky helpers"? No?) because they really are different. Here's how:

  • Acupuncture needles are filiform. That means they are solid. The needles used for blood draw are hollow and angled for the purpose of cutting veins. Acupuncture needles aren't like that at all and don't need to cut anything, they just gently stimulate the surrounding tissue. 
  • Acupuncture needles don't contain medicine. Patients often ask me if there is anything on or in acupuncture needles that makes them work. NO! I promise, I don't drug my patients! Acupuncture needles are not coated with or filled with any kind of medicine. They work by stimulating your own fascia, muscles,  nerves, hormones and chemical messengers just by being there! No drugs required!
  • Acupuncture needles are tiny.  So freaking tiny. How tiny? Barely thicker than a human hair. You can actually fit a whole bunch of acupuncture needles inside the needles they use to draw your blood. 

So, what does acupuncture feel like? 

The short answer is that acupuncture feels like going on a Hawaiian vacation without leaving my clinic. But what exactly do those teeny skinny poky helpers feel like?

Usually, you hardly feel them at all. It's a little different for each patient and it depends on how sensitive you are, what is being treated, where it is being treated, and exactly what kind of acupuncture needle is being used. But in general, you'll hardly feel a thing. When I use cosmetic or pediatric needles, most people don't even realize that I've put the needles in, and if they've had their eyes closed they often ask,"So, when are you gonna start?"  I tell them to open their eyes, and they can't believe that I've already turned them into (very adorable) porcupines!

Sometimes, there might be a lightning quick electric sensation, dull ache, or little pinch. These sensations disappear almost immediately and can actually be helpful, as they signal that your body has really noticed the needle and will respond with your own natural resources to start the healing process. And of course, if any needles do feel truly uncomfortable after the initial insertion,  I am right there to adjust them or take them out. 

I always aim to be sensitive to people's fears, because I understand them. When I treat kids, I actually use the term "taps" instead of needles, and I have a whole array of tools to help all my patients feel comfortable. There's a relaxing fountain. You can choose any kind of music that helps soothe you (yes, if heavy metal is your thing, you can listen to Slayer if you really want). I keep lavender oil on hand (if you like it), to help foster a chilled out mind set, and I even have toys available for babies and kids (and adults, too!) that induce relaxation, like watching glitter or oil beads fall through water. We can do your session with meditation and breathing, or I am happy to chat away and distract you! 

And after all that...if you really don't want needles, you're in luck. 

I offer alternatives like totally painless (and super cool) laser acupuncture or cupping therapy. 

The bottom line...acupuncture needles (aka teeny skinny poky helpers!) are the good guys. They aren't anything like the needles you get at the hospital, and they can help promote greater health and reduce your pain, anxiety, insomnia, or depression. 

Give it a try. I think you're going to love it. 


Tamara RettinoComment