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  • Writer's pictureNicci

What might you feel during an acupuncture treatment?

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

acupuncture on back of woman

During an acupuncture session, individuals may experience various sensations. The most common sensations are usually mild and temporary.

Needle insertion

Acupuncture typically involves the insertion of thin, sterile needles into specific points on the body. Some people describe feeling a slight prick or a quick, momentary pinch as the needle is inserted. The sensation is often brief and well-tolerated.

Acupuncture needles are typically made of stainless steel and come in various lengths and thicknesses. They are extremely thin; much finer than the needles used for injections or blood tests. The needles are also usually solid rather than hollow, which means they do not extract or inject fluids. The slender nature of these needles allows for relatively painless insertion and ensures minimal tissue damage.

The quality and sterilization of acupuncture needles are of utmost importance to ensure patient safety. At Acupuncture Surrey we comply with the guidelines of the British Acupuncture Council and use disposable needles, meaning they are used once and then discarded. This eliminates the risk of infection or cross-contamination.

De qi sensation

De qi, in the context of acupuncture, refers to a sensation or feeling that patients may experience during a treatment session. It is often described as a combination of different sensations, including heaviness, warmth, tingling, or a dull ache at or around the needle insertion site. The term "de qi" translates to "obtaining the qi" or "arrival of qi," with "qi" referring to the vital energy or life force in traditional Chinese medicine.

De qi is considered an important component of acupuncture therapy, as it is believed to indicate the activation and movement of qi and the body's energy pathways. Acupuncturists strive to achieve de qi during a treatment because it is thought to enhance the therapeutic effects of acupuncture.

The specific experience of de qi can vary among individuals and may be influenced by factors such as the acupuncture technique used, the patient's sensitivity, and the acupuncturist's skill. Some people may feel a subtle and pleasant sensation, while others may perceive it as slightly uncomfortable or unfamiliar.

Acupuncturists often aim to achieve de qi by manipulating the needles after insertion. Techniques like gentle twisting, lifting and thrusting, or applying mild electrical stimulation may be employed to elicit the desired response. The acupuncturist may also ask the patient for feedback regarding any sensations felt during the session.

While de qi is often associated with positive therapeutic outcomes, it is worth noting that acupuncture can still be effective even if de qi is not strongly felt. The experience of de qi is subjective, and its absence does not necessarily indicate an ineffective treatment. The overall goal of acupuncture is to address the specific health concerns of the individual, and the acupuncturist will adapt their approach accordingly to provide the best possible care.


It's also possible to experience a deep sense of relaxation during acupuncture. Many people find the treatment to be calming and may even fall asleep during the session.

There are several reasons why acupuncture may promote relaxation:

  1. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system: Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the "rest and digest" response. This activation can help counterbalance the effects of stress and promote a state of relaxation.

  2. Release of endorphins: Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving and mood-enhancing chemicals in the body. Endorphins can induce feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and a general sense of well-being.

  3. Regulation of neurotransmitters: Acupuncture may influence the levels of various neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters play a crucial role in mood regulation, and their balanced levels can contribute to a relaxed state.

  4. Reduction of stress hormones: Acupuncture has been shown to decrease the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the body. High levels of cortisol are associated with increased stress and anxiety, so reducing its release can contribute to a more relaxed state.

It's important to note that the specific mechanisms underlying the relaxation effects of acupuncture are still being researched, and individual responses may vary. However, the combination of physiological, biochemical, and neurological factors likely contributes to the overall relaxation experienced during acupuncture treatments.


This blog has described some typical sensations experienced during an acupuncture treatment. Everyone's experience with acupuncture can be different though. Sensations can vary based on factors such as individual sensitivity, the techniques used by the acupuncturist, and the specific points being targeted. It's always helpful to communicate openly with your acupuncturist about any sensations you experience during the treatment so that they can adjust their techniques if needed.

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