How to minimize your pain response to acupuncture

Facial expression of pain Image

Acupuncture treatment should not hurt. The experience is meant to be a relaxing and a place where patients are encouraged to open up about their health concerns and possibly take a nap. Some patients, however, can experience pain during needle insertion. While this is cause for concern, minimal pain is a normal response. The level of pain felt can be influenced by certain conditions and lifestyle choices. Thankfully, there are steps that patients can take to minimize their pain response.

What acupuncture treatment can feel like

Acupuncture is performed by the insertion of needles into the body’s surface. Needles are hair thin, but can produce discomfort or pain upon insertion. Most patients feel a pinching, electric or burning sensation upon needle insertion. I describe the sensation as similar to a mosquito bite- annoying but tolerable. Pain, however, should not occur for an extended period of time. Discomfort or pain felt during treatment should be fleeting and manageable. 

Find a skilled acupuncturist

Finding a skilled and gentle acupuncturist is the next step to having a relaxing treatment. There are many different treatment approaches, theories and styles. Some acupuncturists use traditional Chinese needling techniques, known to be a little forceful in order to illicit “de qi” sensation. Other acupuncturists practice a gentle infant style of acupuncture that utilizes shoni shin tools on the skin’s surface, rather than needles. And there’s all sorts of variation of needling techniques in between! Feel free to ask your acupuncturist about their needling technique and willingness to accommodate your sensitivities.

How acupuncturists minimize your pain response

Acupuncturists can use coated needles and gentle needling techniques in order to minimize discomfort. Thin needles feel like almost nothing at all upon insertion and are generally used on areas of the body with less muscle mass. Thick needles are necessary when needling into thick muscle and tissue layers. Seirin silicone coated acupuncture needles have a smooth finish and allow for a gentle and painless insertion. Gentle needling technique, such as needling superficially or using little to no manipulation, can also decrease a patient’s pain response.

How to minimize your pain response

Most patients would rather not feel any pain during acupuncture treatment. There are a number of things that patients can do to minimize their reaction to pain. It is within the patient’s control to have a pleasant and relaxing acupuncture treatment. Patients should try to rest during treatment, ensure they are well hydrated, avoid caffeine and avoid taking medications the day of treatment in order to have a relaxing experience.

Rest During Treatment

Patients should try to rest and not move during treatment. Moving the body after needles are inserted engages muscles and tissues surrounding the needles. Moving can also reposition needles which will add tension to the insertion area. I encourage all patients to communicate their level of comfort so that needles can be readjusted or removed as needed.


Patients should try to calm their mind and put away any fears about receiving treatment. Anxiety about needles can be avoided by closing one’s eyes and breathing deeply during treatment. Humming is also a great tool for focusing and calming the mind. If patients are not comfortable with certain parts of their body being needled, they would do well to communicate that before treatment begins.


It is of the utmost importance that patients meet the body’s minimum requirements for hydration. In general, a person should drink between half an ounce to an ounce of water for each pound of weight, every day. For example, a 100 pound person requires 50-100 ounces of water daily. Clinical studies have shown that dehydration has been linked to headaches, rheumatism and low back pain.

Avoid caffeine

In order to prevent a painful response to acupuncture treatment, patients would do well to decrease their caffeine intake before treatment. As mentioned, caffeine could inhibit acupuncture analgesia, preventing the relaxing effects of treatment.

Acupuncture works

The benefits of acupuncture far outweigh the risk of pain. Acupuncture truly balances mind, body and spirit. Treatment smooths the flow of blood, which decreases blood stagnation and eases pain. Doing so will calm the mind and, therefore, calm the spirit and allow for more restful sleep. I believe that if patients are willing to overcome the fear of needles and the minor discomfort they may cause, they will see that acupuncture is able to address issues well beyond their chief concern.

Get in touch

If you are interested in receiving all-natural, pill-free and non-toxic cosmetic acupuncture treatment in the Denver area, feel free to book an appointment. If you have any questions about general acupuncture, cosmetic acupuncture or anything else, please book a free 15 minute phone consultation to see if acupuncture is right for you. Feel free to check out other blog posts, including “Redness on the face: What does it mean?” And “Cosmetic acupuncture is more than skin deep.”


Current Pain Headache Reports. 2021; 25(8): 56.Published online 2021 Jul 15. doi: 10.1007/s11916-021-00966-z.

Ogino, Yuichi MD, PhD*; Kakeda, Takahiro RN, PHN, PhD†; Nakamura, Koji MD‡; Saito, Shigeru MD, PhD* Dehydration Enhances Pain-Evoked Activation in the Human Brain Compared with Rehydration, Anesthesia & Analgesia: June 2014 – Volume 118 – Issue 6 – p 1317-1325. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e3182a9b028.

Paller, Channing J et al. “Sex-based differences in pain perception and treatment.” Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.) vol. 10,2 (2009): 289-99. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4637.2008.00558.x

Zylka, M. Needling adenosine receptors for pain relief. Nature Neuroscience 13, 783–784 (2010).

General acupuncture treatment
Service Type
General acupuncture treatment
Provider Name
Healing Acupuncture Co.,
1777 S. Harrison Street-1200,Denver, CO,80210,
Telephone No.720-515-8501
Denver, Colorado
How acupuncture feels, how the body perceives pain and ways to prevent a painful response

Published by Healing Acupuncture Co.

Acupuncture clinic that specializes in balancing mental-emotional health, treating low back pain and cosmetic rejuvenation.

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