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  • Writer's pictureDr Bret Ellington DACM, LAc

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

One of the questions I get asked just about every day is "Does acupuncture hurt?" The shortest and most honest answer I can give is "no." To say that acupuncture hurts would be completely incorrect. That being said, I'm not going to say you can't feel the needles either.

Now, before you get worried about the needles, let me explain needle sizes. Needle diameter is measured in gauges. The higher the gauge, the thinner the needle. It sounds a little backwards, but that's how it works. So, single digit numbers would be very large needles and the higher you count, the smaller the needle diameter gets.

16g is larger than 18g.

28g is larger than 40g.


OK. Next let's compare some sizes of needles you might have had the lovely experience of encountering.

Blood Drawn: 16 or 17 gauge

Epidurals: 17 - 20 gauge

Progesterone: 22 gauge

Tetanus: 22 gauge

Cortisone: 20 -25 gauge

Insulin: 28 - 32 gauge

Acupuncture Needles: 28 - 40 gauge

I've never run into any acupuncturists that use 28 gauge needles. The size I use in my clinic is 36 or 38 gauge and they seem to do the job just fine. Even at 28 gauge, the thickest, all the acupuncture needles are flexible!!! At 40 gauge you’re looking at a hair-thin needle.

Here’s the pre-treatment tutorial I give to all my patients:

“Here’s an acupuncture needle.” (show the patient a needle) “They’re all pre-sterilized and single use. As you can see they’re extremely thin and flexible, kind of like a cat's whisker. This one isn’t sterile anymore, as I’m now touching it, so it gets placed in the Sharps container. You don’t get anyone else's needle and no one gets yours” (Then dispose of the needle in the Sharps container) “The needle is so thin, if I try to put it in by itself it might bend, so I put it in a little plastic straw called a guide tube. You’ll feel the pressure of the guide tube on your skin and then a little tap. It may feel a little dull or a sensation of pressure. These are ok. After I put the needle in, if you’re feeling any discomfort after a couple of seconds, let me know. Any questions?”

Then I’ll put the first needle in and ask if that was ok. The typical response is “That was it?” Then, whatever anxiety about needles they had when they walked in the door immediately disappears.

In conclusion, there’s no more pain associated with acupuncture than you’ll experience on a normal day in your life. Considering most patients can fall asleep or get some DEEP relaxation while they have the needles in, I can’t recommend acupuncture enough. Make it a part of your health care program and see what it can do for you!!!

Call 720-361-6870 or visit to book your appointment.


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