Dear Scared-of-Needles: an open letter to first-time acupuncture clients

Dear Scared-of-Needles,

DSC03541So you’re freaked out by those long, pointy things called needles. You have murky childhood memories of nurses looming over you, hypodermics in hand, headed for your arm, or leg, or even your … okay, well, we won’t go there.

Instead, let’s stop! Take a breath. Just for a second imagine yourself lying blissfully on a comfy massage table or chair. Your eyes are closed, your breath comes ever more slowly.

You hear a voice: “Okay, let’s begin …. I want you to take a big breath in.”

You open your eyes and tense a little, expecting something resembling one of those nasty-but-necessary jabs from long ago.

Then you look down and realize: the needle is already in. And you didn’t feel a thing!

Well, maybe you felt a slight tingling, a heaviness, or a little bit of a humming sensation. But it didn’t “hurt.” And now it feels so, so good. You’re even getting a little sleepy.

That’s not surprising. Acupuncture needles are tiny, much (much) thinner and lighter than even the smallest hypodermic needle. They are also solid (rather than hollow) and flexible yet strong. And when you visit a well-trained acupuncturist, they are inserted gently and skilfully.

The reason you feel so relaxed and sleepy? Studies show that acupuncture modulates the nervous system, bringing our bodies back into balance.

Chronic stress is linked to a host of diseasesSleeping-girl, from anxiety and insomnia to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and infertility. That sleepy feeling indicates that your body is restoring itself and building resistance to disease. All you have to do is enjoy the ride!

And although some sensations are expected (and even welcomed as indications that the body is now actively healing), these sensations are akin to the “ahh” feeling of a nice deep shoulder massage or the deep release you feel when holding a therapeutic yoga pose.

I’m not going to say “don’t be scared.” Any time you are doing something for the first time, it’s natural to feel a little anxious.

But I am saying that any sensations you do have are more than likely going to be of the “yummy” rather than “yow!” variety.

And that you’re in complete and total control of your treatment. Always!

Doesn’t that make you feel just a little bit more comfy?



Qian-Qian Li, Guang-Xia Shi, Qian Xu, JingWang, Cun-Zhi Liu, and Lin-Peng Wang: Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation. Published online 2013 May 26. Downloaded November 13 2015.

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