Acupuncture & Phobia of Needles

It’s not uncommon for most patients to walk into the clinic and tell me that they have a fear of needles. Whether this is a mild fear or a full-blown phobia, many of these patients continue to come for treatment successfully. If you have a fear of needles and think that acupuncture is not for you, I encourage you to reconsider. Here are some things to help dispel the painful acupuncture experience.

Feel one of your hairs
The pain experienced from a hypodermic syringe is because the thickness of the needle is relatively large, and because there is a hole in the center of the needle for fluid to pass through. In contrast, acupuncture needles are about the thickness of a human hair and are completely solid. This is an entirely different profile from a syringe. The needles themselves are thin enough to be inserted into the skin without pain.

No blood in sight
Another benefit of the thinness of acupuncture needles is that when the needle is removed, the skin closes up immediately. So, 99% of the time there is no bleeding when a needle is removed, and the remaining 1% of the time there is only a small drop.

It’s okay to move
Some people are frightened at the idea of acupuncture because they conjure up the idea of having so many needles stuck in them and being unable to move. Typically this isn’t true. Acupuncture needles are made of high-grade stainless steel and are flexible enough to allow a patient to move their body. Obviously you’ll have to be careful during a session – you do have needles in you, after all – but movement is possible, and you won’t be trapped on the table.

Don’t anticipate
The majority of pain that patient experience in acupuncture happens when they anticipate that a needle will be painful. They exaggerate the pain in their head so much that even before the needle is inserted the patient yelps. If this is you, the best thing you can do is to breathe deep, and to focus on the air filling and leaving your lungs. Your acupuncturist will take good care of you from here.

For real phobias
Now, for those with a true phobia of needles, acupuncture is probably not for you. If you can’t relax at least a little on the table then you’re not likely to get any benefit out of the treatment. In this case, if you’re still looking for alternatives then I suggest herbal medicine is probably your best bet.

Acupuncture should be a relaxing experience. If the fear of pain has been holding you back, please discuss this with your acupuncturist. Fear shouldn’t hold you back.