This a question we get very often from folks who have not had treatment previously and it is indeed a very good one to ask!  Here is a brief overview of various sensations that may occur during an acupuncture treatment, related to the points used.

As the point is placed, one may experience a “pinch” of insertion.  Many people experience no sensation during point insertion, given the unique method of insertion used in this particular clinic.  On average, people report feeling about 1 out of 7 or 8 points used; when it is felt, many report a brief sensation similar to that of a mosquito bite.  If someone is particular tense or has had a lot of caffeine, it is reported the number felt upon insertion does increase, which makes sense given the muscles are increasingly tight in such situations.

More commonly, well after the insertion, one may experience sensations of what is called “De Qi” (a Chinese term loosely meaning “big circulation”). This is a positive sign of increased circulation, indicating that the treatment is working. Sensations reported include aching, shooting, a “nerve-like” shooting, warmth, numbness and distention, to name a few.

If this occurs, it is a positive sign of circulatory change. Look at your acupuncturist when this is felt and say, “De Qi.”  You will quite likely get knowing and amused smile.

If you experience such a sensation in the course of treatment and it is overly intense, a person can simply softly call to a practitioner who can quickly adjust the point, if necessary.

Obviously variations may occur with people’s unique physical function, but related to the sensations of acupuncture–which may fluctuate through the course of treatment–it is quite interesting to know what happens internally and functionally, and at what times, during an acupuncture treatment:

  1. 11 minutes after the points are placed:  dramatic circulatory changes begin.
  2. 15 minutes after the points are placed:  the treatment is now “building the body’s function”, commonly known in acupuncture terminology as “tonification”.
  3.  25 minutes after the points:  the treatment is now “sedating” the body, which is to say “down-regulating the nervous system” and having a calming effect overall.
  4.  Needles might normally be taken out sometime after the 25-minute mark.