Acupuncture? But I don’t like needles!

Why come for acupuncture if you don’t like needles? Some people don’t like needles, in fact, some people fear and hate them. I used to think, ‘Surely they wouldn’t want acupuncture? Turns out I was wrong. . .  

While I was training 2 things happened that made me think patients who don’t like needles can still want acupuncture! Knowing this has allowed me to ‘keep things real’ and never get needle happy or gung-ho and over-needle my patients.

During my Acupuncture Training 

Reading a case study on acupuncture with a needle phobic patient made me think. My initial thoughts were “why would someone who hates needles even consider acupuncture? Besides, acupuncturists wouldn’t be able to treat them anyway; Mmmm – Acupuncture IS Needles!!”

Wrong again! The treatment started slowly with just touching the acu-points with the lid of ballpoint pen. This progressed through different stages of acu-pressure and point selection then culminated in using minimal fine needles. 

Around this time, my husband volunteered as a practice body for my tutor group.  I was delighted he had offered to help out! It was only when our group met I could see he was obviously nervous. (Ok, we were still training but we were in our final year and we had already amassed a lot of skill and knowledge of acupuncture).  I had always thought (or presumed) he was ok with needles; he gives blood, he gets injections. . .) Turns out, yet again I was wrong.

Asked afterwards what was the matter and why did he choose to volunteer? He replied “ I hate needles – I thought it would help me get over it. . .a kind of aversion therapy”. Mmmm. . .I thought  “so, now you tell me”. . .At this point I wasn’t confident my new career as an acupuncturist would work out if I couldn’t even needle my nearest and dearest!

Time to Reflect

Not to be deterred, during the years that followed I kept refining my skills and intuition. I was curious how acupuncture could help people with needle fear and what I could possibly do to treat them.

Can I now treat my husband with acupuncture? Yes. Does he like needles any more than he did previously? No, he still can’t stand them!  In order to treat him I have to needle certain points in a very particular way.We both know Cupping works much better for his pain and for his whole being! (I’ll explain more about this later!)

So I get it. Just because I am fine with needles I understand not everyone is. I recognise some people really don’t like needles but they still have health complaints and want to use acupuncture to restore their health.

8 Things to know about Acupuncture when you don’t like needles

Acupuncture needles are NOT hypodermic needles

Injections from the doctor and dentist use hypodermic needles. These needles are hollow, large and allow a liquid to be entered into your body. Acupuncture needles are very different. They are much smaller and finer.

2. Acupuncture works with the body

Acupuncture does not add or take anything away from your body. The principle involved is that your body has an internal response to an external stimulus. The Traditional perspective is that the needles balance your internal energy. From a Medical perspective acupuncture needles affect your muscles, neurology and body chemistry i.e. Endorphin release.   

3. Not all Acupuncture needles are equal! 

Acupuncture is known to originate from China but I don’t use Chinese needles! My needles come from different countries and I use different needles on different areas on the body. My body and face needles come from Japan and my electro-acupuncture, hand and ear needles come from Korea. OK – my scalp needles do indeed come from China; but they are specialist needles only used on the scalp. 

4. How Acupuncture feels 

I buy high quality needles for smoother, easier insertion. You may wonder if that means you won’t feel anything during treatment? Or that you won’t feel them when I insert them? Mmmm … No and No. I actually want my patients to experience some needle sensation during treatment for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I need to know the sensation is correct i.e. not sharp or uncomfortable. Secondly, that I am tapping into the correct energy and sending messages to the brain that something different is happening in the body; change is occurring in order to create a healing response. Feeling the needles is not essential, but usually optimal for best results. 

You can find out more about this in this short video – 

5. Different needles for different things

I always use different needle lengths and gauge (size) to best suit the area and points being needled. This ensures all my patients remain comfortable during treatment. This includes my pain patients, children, pregnant women and the elderly. Slightly longer needles for larger muscle groups but also some tiny needles that are inserted with tweezers on the face.

6. Often it isn’t fear of needles but fear of the unknown 

Knowing what is happening during Acupuncture treatment helps my patients relax and feel comfortable.I use a minimal amount of needles to get the biggest difference in your health. Needling starts slowly and before any needles are inserted I talk through where they are going to be placed and the feeling that you might experience from being needled in that location. 

You may be surprised that needles don’t always go in areas of pain! I frequently use Distal points; this means needles are placed away from the painful area. More often than not, my patients don’t see the needles being inserted or even during treatment. Patients are lying down or reclined with their eyes closed. 

7. Working together

You can tell me about an area you don’t want needled during treatment so I can avoid it and use alternative points and locations. Also, if a needle is sore or uncomfortable, I’ll remove or reposition it. During treatment we work together and my patients feel involved and in control. Sometimes patients even have their own favourite points and ask me to needle these!

8.  Acupuncture without needles!

Ok – you have just read all the above and may still be thinking “That all sounds fine but still, I really don’t like needles. I want to see if acupuncture can help me but please. . .just don’t needle me. . . .”  

Can acupuncture still help you without using needles?  Yes. 

The Chinese symbol for Acupuncture has two characters and can be translated literally as Stimulation and Heat. Acupuncturists stimulates particular areas on the body in order to create a healing response. There are different ways to work with the body to bring positive change and restore health and balance. Some health conditions actually respond better to different treatments that don’t involve needles. Things like Chinese Cupping, Moxibustion and using an Infra-red heat lamp. Alternatives to needles include acupressure massage and myo-facial release.  None of these treatments use needles! 

Remember my husband and his dislike of needles? Well what works best for him? Distal needling with his eyes closed (never touching his feet!) then applying local cupping.

Using needles can provide optimal treatment results. However, if I think I can help you using different methods I will.  We work together; with your trust and willingness I’ll do my best to restore your health.

5 comments on “Acupuncture? But I don’t like needles!

  • Hi Lucy,

    I was surfing through the internet for a while just to get in-depth information about the topic you wrote about and it really helped me to know about about how one feels a bit of different sensations during acupuncture needles insertion. Keep sharing such blogs further as well. And kindly let me know how can I subscribe to the Newsletter. Thanks.

  • Write a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *