I’ll never forget the very first time I went to get acupuncture.
As soon as the needle went in, I thought I was going to faint, or puke—or both. I later realized that this was purely a response that I developed because I was afraid and didn’t know what to expect. In other words, it was psychosomatic.
If someone had told me what to expect my first acupuncture appointment, I probably would have had a much more enjoyable experience. Since then, I’ve had dozens of treatments, and never anything that (negatively) affected me like the first time around. Usually, I just fall asleep, and that’s saying a lot for someone who has taken only a few dozen naps in his entire life.
That’s why I want to share with you some of the most common things to expect when you have your first acupuncture appointment and to answer the question: what does acupuncture feel like?
The First Time You Get Acupuncture
You will laugh, cry, or fall asleep.
When I was a doctoral student of Chinese medicine, something a professor of mine said really struck me.
He said, generally speaking, there are three things you can expect when you get acupuncture.
The patient will often spontaneously laugh, spontaneously cry, or fall asleep.
I’ll never forget the first time I laughed spontaneously during an acupuncture session. Since I never experienced anything like that in my entire life, I was pretty afraid and (again) didn’t know what was going on.
After about five or ten minutes with the acupuncture needles in me, I started to feel a little choked up with laughter. You know the feeling where you’re in church, where you have to be quiet, and your parents are glaring at you as your brother or sister tries to get you to laugh?
Because you’re in church and you can’t laugh, you try to bottle in the laughter and it just creates this pressurized feeling, where you feel like you’re going to explode with laughter? The more you try to conceal the laughter, the more the pressure gets, until eventually you just lose it? Well, that’s what it kind of felt like for me.
I tried pushing the laughter down, until eventually, I lost it. I laughed so convulsively that – for 20 minutes – I couldn’t stop, until I had tears streaming down my face. A few minutes later, I fell asleep, and woke up to the acupuncturist letting me know the treatment was over.
Acupuncture and Stored Emotions
I’ve seen this in many other people and patients too. I’ve also had it happen to me one or two more times. Besides laughing, plenty of people start spontaneously crying.
The typical scenario is that the person feels a strange urge to cry, and they don’t know why they’re crying, but tears are streaming down their face.
What’s interesting (regarding how acupuncture releases emotions) is that most of the time, people don’t feel sad. They just can’t stop crying, and they don’t know why.
Of course, the third most common reaction is that people just fall asleep. The strong relaxation response sets in as you feel the tingling and listen to the little white noise machine.
Eventually you drift off, and you start dreaming. If you have a hard time sleeping at night, you may find that it’s really easy to fall asleep in the acupuncture room.
The bigger question – what does acupuncture feel like?
As a result, they aren’t designed to even be thick enough to draw blood, they aren’t designed for cutting or slicing, and are a fraction of the size.
Side Effects of Acupuncture
Obviously, if you’ve never had acupuncture, it’s natural to be worried.
Can anything bad happen when you get acupuncture?
Let’s talk about sensations you might experience.
Day to day, 99% of the “side effects” of acupuncture usually are:
On some insertions, a sharp sensation
If we want to dig into the research a bit more, to see what comes up, here’s what we see.
A clinical study sought to see the primary side effects of over 3,535 acupuncture treatments and found:
Slight hemorrhage (2.90%) and hematoma (2.2%) which generally just means getting a black and blue welt near an acupuncture point, like a raised bruise.
Nausea, feeling of faintness (less than 1%)
Another study found similar results – bruising, nausea and dizziness, were the most common side effects of acupuncture.
Another systematic review found that in nine studies, the most common adverse events were:
Tiredness (2% to 41%)
Slight bleeding (upon removal) (.03% to 38%)
Needle discomfort (from 1% to 45%)
On the other side, 86% of patients reported feelings of relaxation.
Acupuncture Adverse Events vs. Conventional Medicine
Iatrogenic causes of death = being treated by a physician or getting medical care
Every once in a while, a scaremonger comes along and says, “Acupuncture is a DANGEROUS practice, look, this one person died from it!”
In the United States, 2016 was a year where research profiled in the British Medical Journal reported that properly prescribed medical treatment is now the 3rd leading cause of death:
In their study, the researchers examined four separate studies that analyzed medical death rate data from 2000 to 2008. Then, using hospital admission rates from 2013, they extrapolated that based on a total of 35,416,020 hospitalizations, 251,454 deaths stemmed from a medical error, which the researchers say now translates to 9.5 percent of all deaths each year in the U.S.
According to the CDC, in 2013, 611,105 people died of heart disease, 584,881 died of cancer, and 149,205 died of chronic respiratory disease—the top three causes of death in the U.S. The newly calculated figure for medical errors puts this cause of death behind cancer but ahead of respiratory disease.
Mentioned in a World Health Organization report, the rate of death or serious injury (e.g. organ damage), or a hospital admission from acupuncture mentioned in one observational study of 190,000+ patients was a combined 0.024% .
That works out to about 45 people.
Compare that to the 251,000+ deaths cited above, that looks like this:
Actually, 45 injuries/deaths fail to even show up on this chart, so I had to put in 3,000.
Obviously, there are problems with this information. For example, we don’t know the reporting standards in Asia (like China), or the rate of adverse events. But inside acupuncture circles, it’s extremely rare to see series injuries or hospital admissions from it.
What Will Realistically Happen Your First Appointment
Most of the time, people tend to feel a deep sense of relaxation, pain relief, buzzing, tingling, and numbness, and every once in a while, a bit of a sharp sensation upon insertion (that goes away after several minutes).
Other than that, most people have a great first experience and begin to crave the feeling of relaxation from acupuncture.
Are you planning on trying acupuncture? What is your #1 question or concern?