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Tips to Lift Your Fear of Acupuncture Needles

by Sharon Gordon


Most people, when they hear about the benefits of acupuncture, find themselves thinking, “That would be so good for me!” Less stress, more energy, better sleep and digestion… Who doesn’t want that? But for many people, there’s one thing that holds them back from enjoying the benefits of acupuncture: Fear of needles.

There’s a spectrum of needle fears, ranging from downright needle phobic to being moderately concerned about the whole voluntarily-being-stuck-with-needles thing. Regardless, fear of needles is the number-one reason people choose to forego acupuncture.

5 things to remember if you’re scared of getting acupuncture. Here’s what I tell people who say they’d love to try acupuncture but haven’t because they’re scared of needles.

1) They’re nothing like the needles you know. Needle apprehension is very common and natural, considering that we have been conditioned to associate needles with pain—think dentists, blood draws, and IVs. But an acupuncture needle is hair-thin, more like a filament then a needle and nothing like the needles in a medical setting. 

2) Acupuncture is the most gentle form of needling possible.  If acupuncture was anything like getting an injection, acupuncturists would be out of business. Most people who have never had acupuncture do not realize how thin acupuncture needles are. They bend when you touch them. The needling sensation from acupuncture is so gentle that even kids are cool with it. When adults tell me they are afraid of needles, I share anecdotes about a child I recently saw who was really brave, or I tell them, "This morning, I did acupuncture on a two-month old."

3) Sometimes just changing terminology can help assuage needle fears. I don't call them needles and prefer to call them "filaments" or "healing sticks"? This tiny shift in perception, away from the western-medical ‘needle,’ can help to release fears and phobias around acupuncture.

4) Remember too, that you’re in control. People commonly assume that they cannot move once the acupuncture needles are in place. That they need to lie there stiff as a board lest they endure excruciating pain or damage their insides. Understandably, this leads to a lot of anxiety and out-of-control feelings. But it’s not true. A good acupuncturist will go at whatever pace you’re comfortable with. If you want to start with only a few needles and not keep them in very long, tell your acupuncturist that. If you want to pull out a needle that’s bothering you, go for it.

I tell my patients that we can go as slow as they want so that they feel like they are part of the experience. Acupuncture is not about something happening to you. You have a voice.   I, myself, was needle phobic so I asked that I not be shown the needles during treatment. One thing you can ask for is that your acupuncturist avoid acupuncture points in your arms. With your arms free, you can be more in control.  

5) There are other modalities that acupuncturists can use. Acupuncturists are trained in several healing techniques, besides these filaments. There’s acupressure, cupping, gua sha, moxibustion, ear seeds, qigong, inter-dermals, magnets among others. I employ tuning forks and aromatherapy on the acu-points and during one of my sessions you will receive a gentle form of body alignment using zero balancing to put fulcrums into your muscle and skeletal structure to effect ease of movement.

So you see, there is really nothing to fear. If you would like more information or a free 15 minute consult to assess whether you can be helped with your particular health concern, call or text me at (207) 482-0725.   - Sharon Gordon, M.Ac., Dipl.Ac.