Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Answers to your questions about East Asian medicine

Brought to You by Free Range Health®

When someone is curious about trying East Asian medicine, the first question they ask is always, "Does acupuncture hurt?" It's a simple question, and it deserves an honest answer. However, it's never as simple as yes or no. 

Over the years, our providers have been asked this question literally hundreds of times. The person asking has usually had some past experiences with needles that make them reluctant to willingly submit to a procedure where they may get 10 or more inserted into their body. 

We get it! Health care shouldn't be about having more pain. It should be about finding relief from the pain and other illnesses you already have.

As we have answered this question for lots of different patients, some common themes have emerged. The biggest concern we see is just a fear of the unknown. People get nervous about stuff they don't have any experience with.


To help overcome your heebie-jeebies about acupuncture, we're here to help you feel more comfortable and ready to book a treatment!

What the question really means...

When people ask this question, they are usually comparing their perception of acupuncture to their own past experiences with needles. Most people learn to be worried about needles after they have gotten a shot or had to give blood for lab tests. 

The needles used for those procedures need to be hollow because medicine or blood has to flow through them. This means they have to be larger, which can lead to pain. 

Acupuncture needles are made to go quickly into the skin. They do not carry medicine or other fluids, so they aren't hollow. As a result, they are super small when compared to other types of needles. This means you probably won't feel much when they are inserted.

See for yourself with this realistic comparison image put out by the Pacific College for Oriental Medicine:

Everyone experiences pain differently...

OK, so the needles are smaller, but that still doesn't answer the question. We don't want to give you a false sense of security. You may experience some discomfort during a treatment. Most people tell us they hardly ever feel it when the needles are inserted, but some people can have strong reactions.

Everyone has their own experience with difficult situations. What one person says feels like nothing could be a really big deal to someone else. That's why you hear different answers when you ask people about acupuncture treatments they've had themselves.

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You will feel Qi sensations...

Qi is the healing energy that moves through the body. When you get an acupuncture treatment, your provider is manipulating the Qi to create the best outcomes for your health and well being.

As the needles are inserted, you might feel what we like to call the Qi Sensations.  These are nothing to be worried about, but they can be startling for anyone who hasn't had acupuncture before. 

Zaps & Zings

This is one of the most common of the Qi sensations. When the needle is inserted, you may feel an electrical zap that travels away from the needle.

People often mistake this one for pain because it is so surprising. 

The comment they usually make is, "You hit a nerve!"

We didn't hit a nerve. This is just blocked Qi releasing to move along its normal path.

You may not believe it now, but after a few treatments, when they get a zap, people start to say "That was a good one!"

Dull & Achy

Sometimes after the needle has been inserted, you can begin to a dull ache spreading out from the needle.

First timers often think something is going wrong because achy is usually not good for the body. 

Don't worry! Many people have health problems because they have lost a lot of their Qi.

You feel the dull achy sensations as the Qi is being restored by the acupuncture treatment. Sometimes you can feel achy for several days as the Qi begins to work properly to heal your body.


As the treatment begins to work, you may begin to feel heavy around the needle.

Sometimes your whole body can feel so heavy you don't want to move.

This can make some  people nervous if it is their first time.

This happens because as the Qi begins to work, your body moves into a state of extreme relaxation. Many of us living in the modern world never slow down enough to feel this calm.

It can make some people anxious, but it doesn't hurt.

You may get worse before you get better...

In some cases your symptoms may get worse after the treatment. This typically happens to people with chronic conditions, but it can happen after any treatment. The symptoms usually resolve after a day or two.

The important thing to remember is that this is because your body is healing itself. Sometimes you have to get a little worse before you can begin to get better. After several sessions, this should start to happen less often with less intensity.

We understand your fear...

When you come in for a treatment at one of our low-cost acupuncture clinics, we understand you may have some anxiety about a painful treatment. We want you to know that you will be safe and respected during the treatment. 

More importantly, your personal boundaries will be respected. If you can only handle one needle that day, we won't pressure you to do anything you don't feel comfortable with. We'll never force you to go beyond your comfort zone.

Try it and you will be amazed at how much better you will feel!

These treatments have been such a help for my arthritis. I didn’t think acupuncture would help me as much as it has – treatments do not hurt! I come every Friday when I can and thank Cole for helping me to be pain free, especially in my neck where I have the most pain. I am a believer in acupuncture! Try it and you will be amazed at how much better you will feel!

Connie H

I have more pain free movement with the treatments

Having an affordable acupuncture treatment means as I age my movement will be better. I have more pain free movement with the treatments. The people giving the treatments are interested in helping and in the results patients are getting. We, as seniors, benefit greatly from this physically and mentally here at the Senior Center

Thank you for supporting us with affordable health care.

Claire C

What a change!

I was having trouble with my back after a fall. Before after a fall, maybe a week and I was fine. Not this time. I had heard of acupuncture, but I have limited resources. Cole and the non-profit fit.

What a change! My back is doing well, and I don’t have the stress of financial troubles. Cole does fine work and has made my back and body work without the pain.

Thank You, Cole.

Paul L

The staff are fantastic, and the price is right!

When therapy with bands did not bring me relief, I went to an acupuncture clinic in Seattle to see if they could help my strained rotator cuff. Two treatments later I had no more pain – and that was 20 years ago. So when I found out about Free Range Health, I went to see if they could help me with my drug-related neuropathy in my feet as well as with my peripheral artery disease in my calves. While it’s not eliminated either entirely, my legs and feet feel 80% better after treatment.

I am so thankful that a clinic the caliber of Free Range Health exists. The staff are fantastic, and the price is right!

Kristin C

You don't have to be a senior...

You don’t have to be senior age to enjoy the benefits of Free Range Health at the senior center. Free Range Health is a very affordable and pleasant community acupuncture. My weekly sessions keep my aches and pains at bay without breaking the bank.

Cole and Kristan with Free Range Health are both very nice and knowledgeable acupuncturists. They get to know their clients and their acupuncture needs.

Melissa B

I hate needles, but these don't hurt!

I’ve been going for treatment for my back, working very well. Everyone is so kind and patient. Will continue to go if I have any other problems. I hate needles, but these don’t hurt!

Theda P

Keep on dancing!

I would recommend highly Free Range Health. I have been receiving care weekly for over a year and continually see improvements for my aches and pains. I am an avid Zumba fan so foresee that Dr. Cole and Free Range Health will be finding me on their doorstep to continually keep me in good health.

Barb N

I enjoy my hobby again

I can’t say enough about how wonderful Free Range Health is. I first came because of a wrist tendonitis that was keeping me from my beloved knitting and crocheting. I now am pain free and enjoy my hobby again. I continued with regular treatments for immune enhancement because I trusted the information Cole was sharing about acupuncture’s benefits. Later when I had a shingles attack, acupuncture helped immensely with reducing (and finally eliminating) the pain I was experiencing.

I firmly believe acupuncture has helped me stay healthy and active, and Free Range Health is so affordable.

Fran C

I appreciate their clinical skills

I appreciate and respect Cole’s and Kristan’s clinical skills that they use in acupuncture treatment. I am equally appreciative of their supportive reactions with the clinic patients. They are able to maintain a warm, professional approach to all of us.

David F

Don't let fear of pain keep you from a healthy future!

Get started with acupuncture today

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