Every now and again I’ll have a patient show up for a follow-up visit and ask me if it’s common for them to feel sore after treatment. Usually they’re asking me because they did feel sore or sometimes in more pain for the next couple days after treatment and it concerned them.
I should mention right away that most patients don’t have a problem after treatment. Typically they are in less pain, more relaxed, and more alert. However, there are a few reasons why a patient might feel sore after treatment or for the next 1-2 days.
The first and most common reason is due to the local effects of acupuncture. When a needle is put into the skin, blood flow in the capillaries near the site will increase temporarily as part of the healing process. This increase in blood flow can cause feelings of soreness or throbbing which sometimes persist after the needle is removed. Typically this sensation will last for a few hours at the absolute most.
Another possibility is that when the needle was inserted it actually broke through a capillary. In that case there will be a bruise where the needle was, and that can also be sore. It will resolve like any other bruise.
The third most common possibility is that your acupuncturist is trying to work out a tight area in a muscle or loosen up connective tissue. Doing this often involves rotating or manipulating the needle once it’s in the skin. The effect of this kind of treatment is similar to a workout – muscles are slightly torn and have to repair themselves, and it can be common to feel some delayed-onset muscle soreness for the next couple of days. After 1-2 days patients often report feeling much better than before they came in for treatment. When this is the sensation my patients are asking about, I tell them that it is actually a good thing! It’s a sign that our treatment is helping them break through areas that were tight, stiff, or constricted and causing them pain or discomfort.
When talking about soreness another question that often comes up is how the feeling of acupuncture compares to that of dry needling. Dry needling is a large subject, but as it relates to pain or effects after treatment, acupuncture is far more gentle.
If you are concerned about effects from treatment or looking to find something gentler on the body, schedule your consultation today!