Does Acupuncture Hurt?

This is by far the most common question I get asked. Most people associate acupuncture needles with their experiences getting shots or having blood drawn. An acupuncture needle is significantly smaller than a hypodermic needle used in a doctor’s office. 

Most points will have no or mild sensations upon insertion. In areas with less muscle and tissue, the sensation can be stronger. Acupuncture is rarely painful. Once the needle passes the surface of the skin, where all of your feeling nerves are located, there is no pain or mild sensations that are totally comfortable. Most people leave acupuncture treatments feeling more relaxed and calm than when they arrived.

If you are still worried about needles, I would love to work with you. Needles are not required, although it is the most effective way. Other ways to stimulate acupuncture points are gentle electrical stimulation, magnets, or acupressure.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

The mechanism for how acupuncture works has been researched for over 60 years. The insertion of acupuncture needles stimulates neural pathways to the brain and releases cell chemical messengers. In simpler terms, acupuncture works by stimulating your nervous system. There is no medicine or other chemical substance on the acupuncture needle. Insertion of an acupuncture needle and the body’s response to that is what creates the results.

Acupuncture points are located near active bundles of nerves. Needles are not required to activate these areas, although it is the most effective way. For example the use of magnets, lasers, or acupressure can be highly effective. These techniques can also work on children or adults who are afraid of being needled.

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Do You Take My Insurance?

If you would like to use insurance for your acupuncture visit you must know that insurance will only pay for musculoskeletal pain. This means they only pay for back pain, neck pain, knee pain, etc. In some cases they will also pay for nausea. While acupuncture treats so much more than this, unfortunately, you must pay cash for all other conditions.

I am in-network with most major insurance companies in California:

Blue Shield, Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna, Cigna, Kaiser, Health Net, United Healthcare, Molina, Sharp, American Specialty Health

I am not in-network with TriWest. Medicare does not cover acupuncture performed by acupuncturists.

Each plan varies. Benefits must be checked to ensure you have coverage. If you want to use your insurance, I recommend to call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask if you have acupuncture benefits. Other important items to ask about are:

What is my copay?

Do I need a referral from my doctor?

Does my deductible apply?

If yes, have I met my deductible?

Click here to verify your insurance.

How Do I Prepare For My First Visit?

Please bring your medication and supplement list as well as any imaging results from X-rays, MRIs, and CTs.

 It is best to not skip a meal before acupuncture. If needed eat a light snack prior. Wear loose comfortable clothing that leaves access to the elbows down and the knees down.

It is normal to feel tired afterward so don’t plan anything rigorous right after your appointment.

What Should I Expect At My First Visit?

Your initial visit will last up to 90 minutes. During the initial visit, I take time to discuss your health concern in detail, discuss your health history, review your medications/supplements, and discuss any related lifestyle components.

The needles are inserted and you will rest in the room for 25-40 minutes. Upon removal of needles, I will then often perform soft tissue work to release tight muscles. This may include cupping, gua sha, and massage. Most insurance does not cover soft tissue work. There is a reasonable fee associated with this service.

How Many Treatments Will I Need?

Most patients begin to see a difference after 6 treatments. The number of treatments varies for each person and depends on how long you have been suffering from your health concern. If you have a chronic issue that has been around for 1 or more years, it can take more time to reverse. You didn’t get to this place overnight and you won’t get out of it overnight. It is important to not let too much time lapse between treatments. Repetition strengthens the signal to your brain.

What Conditions Is Acupuncture Proven To Treat?

Pain (all kinds = neck, back, shoulder, knee, abdominal pain, headaches, etc.)

Research has shown that acupuncture is also effective at treating the following conditions:

Acute stroke

Allergic rhinitis


Asthma in adults

Cancer related pain and fatigue

Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting

Post operative nausea & vomiting



Dry eye



Perimenopausal & postmenopausal insomnia

Post stroke insomnia

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Menopausal Hot Flashes

Smoking Cessation

Stroke Rehabilitation

Is There Medicine On The Acupuncture Needle?

There is no medicine or any other substance on the acupuncture needle. It is just sterilized steel.

How Much Training Is Required To Be An Acupuncturist?

Becoming a licensed acupuncturist in California requires 4 years of post-graduate training (1800 hours) beyond a bachelor’s degree. Taking a state or national licensing exam is also required just like many other professions, such as becoming a doctor or a lawyer. I have passed the California State licensing exam and am a California Board Licensed Acupuncturist.

In other states, you may hear of PTs, chiropractors, or doctors practicing acupuncture. They typically take a weekend course to learn how to do acupuncture. It is wise to ask the person performing acupuncture how much training they have received.

Still have questions?

If you still have questions, or you are still wondering if acupuncture or herbal medicine is right for you, schedule a free 15-minute call today!

*Click the link below. Then choose “New Patient” and then “FREE 15 Min Q&A”. 

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