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Acupuncture Side Effects

Most acupuncture side effects are generally positive in nature, and are often what most people need or want, such as more energy, less stress and a better night’s sleep for example. Other positive side effects that patients experience are a relief from the symptoms or medical condition that they visited the acupuncturist for in the first place. Positive side effects of acupuncture are generally known as acupuncture benefits.

However, there are also other acupuncture side effects of a less positive nature. These ‘negative’ side effects are not as common as ‘positive side effects’ but they can happen from time-to-time. It’s important to point out that they are not life-threatening and don’t last for very long, and, if you do experience them, please be assured they are nothing to be worried about at all.

Less Common Acupuncture Side Effects

Generally speaking, most people notice an improvement in their symptoms following an acupuncture treatment. However, some people can feel worse before they start to feel better. This is what is known as a ‘healing crisis’. The principle behind this phenomenon is that when a treatment of any kind is given to a patient, things within the physical system can be ‘stirred up’. This can cause the patient to feel slightly worse for a short-time after the treatment. It can also sometimes bring up old symptoms and ailments that have remained dormant or been withheld by the body over a period of time which can often be many years.

When a person is treated with any form of natural therapy including; massage, naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture or herbalism for example, the wound (ailment or medical condition) that has laid dormant is kind of ‘opened up’ to be cleansed (treated). Many wounds, whether emotional, internal or external, are often ‘opened up’ either consciously or otherwise when any form of therapy is administered.

It is true to say that many physical cuts and wounds have to be cleansed before they are stitched or plastered. Although this is diverting slightly, the principle is the same, as it is a similar form of healing crisis. It hurts before it feels better! This is also true of somebody that seeks councelling. They talk about something that has been pent-up for years in order for it to be healed. The patient will bring up and talk about old painful emotional injuries that may have happened many years ago. They often feel worse for a period of time, but after more visits to the therapist, it is generally recognised that a person will start to feel better, hopefully!

Another of the many positive acupuncture side effects is it’s ability to help to awaken the body’s natural healing process. This can often bring a heightened awareness of the physical body from the patient’s point of view. This is usually a positive experience, but can also mean heightened sensitivity or a lack of tolerance for things that once felt normal. This is often seen in people who unconsciously tighten and hunch their shoulders because of stress, and/or an habitual lack of body awareness. After an acupuncture treatment or other form of therapy, the shoulder tension is released, the patient’s conscious bodily awareness is awakened, and they may become more aware of their previously unfelt neck or upper-back tension.

The good thing about positive acupuncture side effects is that they indicate that things are changing and changing for the better. The energy (qi) that has become ‘stuck’ or congested over time, has been released and is now helping to heal the system. Over-time the patient will ultimately begin to feel more relaxed and less stressed.

Tired or Energised?

One of the following two acupuncture side effects are generally experienced at some point by most people who have received an acupuncture treatment. A patient can often feel tired after acupuncture which is nothing to be worried about. This is usually a result of relaxing on the couch for the first time in a while after leading a stressfull lifestyle. We often chase about with little time to relax, but when we do find the time, we often can’t get started again. If you do experience tiredness after an acupuncture treatment don’t worry. The important thing is to get as much rest as possible for the remainder of that day, drink plenty of water and have an early night. That should hopefully have you feeling much better the following day.

Feeling tired after an acupuncture treatment and even before if it is a common feeling, can also indicate that you may be deficient in some way and may need regular treatments to strengthen you’re deficiencies. A good acupuncturist will be able to diagnose this and treat you accordingly.

Feeling energised is another common acupuncture side effect. If you do experience this then thats great. We all like to feel good, and anything that can enhance that feeling is a great thing. Just remember, if you do experience feeling energised after acupuncture, don’t make the mistake that you will always feel that way after a treatment. I’m not saying you won’t, but it’s likely that it won’t always be that way and you will just be setting yourself up for dissapointment. Generally speaking, these two acupuncture side effects of feeling ‘energised’ or ‘tired’, are probably the most obvious acupuncture side effects over all.

Feeling Sore

Another of the negative acupuncture side effects is soreness. This can often be felt at the point where the acupuncture needle was inserted. When soreness occurs it can be for various reasons. One obvious reason is because a fine needle is actually pricking the skin which can be sore to many people. This side effect is massively reduced with the use of guide tubes that are mostly used nowadays. In fact, when guide tubes are used, which is usually the case, the inital pricking of the skin usually can’t be felt at all. This pain free insertion of acupuncture needles is enhanced with the use of high quality needles, which in my opinion should be used by every acupuncturist. It’s not worth the little extra pennies saved by giving acupuncture treatments with below par needles.

Any feelings of soreness from an acupuncture treatment will usually subside within 24-48 hours. Sometimes it can take a little longer if the acupuncture point is particularly tender due to badly ‘stuck qi’. A good acupuncturist will discuss possible soreness with you at the end of the acupuncture treatment if not before.


So if you are a little nervous of acupuncture, don’t be afraid to ask the acupuncturist what needles they use and if they are of a high quality. If theyre offended in any way, then they can’t be a very sensitive acupuncturist or they would know that people are a little nervous of acupuncture and want to ask questions about it.

De Qi Sensation

Of all the acupuncture side effects, the most common in traditional Chinese acupuncture, is the ‘de qi sensation’. In fact, the ‘de qi sensation’ is something that the traditional Chinese acupuncturist is actually trying to achieve. In traditional Chinese acupuncture, the ‘de qi sensation’ is in fact one of the most important acupuncture side effects there is, and Chinese acupuncture without ‘de qi’ is almost considered a waste of time.

Traditional Chinese acupuncture maintains that the feelings and sensations associated with de qi are a direct result of the needle making contact with the qi (energy) of the acupuncture point being treated. The sensations associated with de qi that may be felt, vary and include; numbness that is often described as a dull ache, distension, tingling, and/or soreness. These sensations may be felt at the site of needle insertion, or distal (further away) from the needle and may also run along the acupuncture point’s associated meridian.


Bruising is another one of the negative acupuncture side effects but is not as common as soreness. If it does occur, it does so at the area where the acupuncture needle was inserted. Sometimes bruising can be the result of fine cappilliaries being punctured by the needle that causes a localized collection of blood at the site after withdrawal of the needle. A bruise will generally last longer than soreness and like most acupuncture side effects are generally nothing to worry about. Some people bruise much easier than others due to individual body make up and genes etc.

Muscular Twitches

Acupuncture side effects such as twitching and mild muscle spasms are not that common but can sometimes happen to some people during an acupuncture treatment. Muscular twitches are different from muscle spasms or muscular contractions. If you do experience any form of muscular twitching or contraction during the treatment, do tell the acupuncturist. If it is too much for you to cope with they will either withdraw the acupuncture needle and either re-insert it, or leave it out completely. If you experience any twitches or spasms etc. after the treatment, again be sure to tell the acupuncturist, they should be able to release it before you leave with some form of tui na therapy.


Fainting is probably the rarest of all the negative acupuncture side effects, but it can sometimes happen to some people. It is more common that a patient might experience some form of mild dizziness or a light headed feeling. This can sometimes occur if a patient were to get up too quickly from the acupuncture table. This is really a side effect of getting up too quickly though, rather than to do with the acupuncture treatment itself. Feeling light headed due to the acupuncture treatment specifically isn’t all that uncommon, but it isn’t that common either, and depends on the individual being slightly that way inclined in the first place.

Having a low blood sugar level during the acupuncture treatment due to having not eaten that day can cause light headed feeling too. If it is an early acupuncture appointment and you are used to having breakfast, but never had the time to eat breakfast for example, it could cause you to become dizzy or light-headed.

Once your acupuncture session is over, a good practitioner whether it be for acupuncture or other form of therapy, should advise you to sit up slowly and take your time when getting up from the treatment couch. You should also take your time to move gently and slowly while you get ready to leave. If you feel at all lightheaded after the treatment be sure to let the acupuncturist know. Sit in the waiting room for a while taking deep breaths until you feel better. Acupuncture, and other forms of healing too, can be physically and emotionally demanding as well as relaxing. The trouble is, our body is not always ready to get up from the treatment couch at the end of the session. In truth, most people could lay there for quite some time after the session has ended. With this in mind, do take your time to fully recover before making your way home especially if driving yourself.

Emotional Release

Emotional release is very common among acupuncture side effects and it is not uncommon for some people to even cry during an acupuncture treatment. This release of emotion is a result of receiving a natural healing treatment, while being in a state of relaxation at the same time. This happens because we human beings hold on to a lot of emotional tension in the form of anger, fear, worry, anxiety and emotional trauma such as experienced when we lose somebody or something close and dear to us. We hold on to these pent up emotions in our muscles, fascia, organs and phsyche. When we relax and receive a treatment that has a direct influence on these aspects of our being, any pent-up emotions are released and often come out in tears. Acupuncture side effects such as this tend to be a positive experience, although it can be somewhat surprising to many.

Feeling over sensitive or prone to crying during an acupuncture treatment is totaly fine and natural. It also suggests that the acupuncture is having a positive effect and is moving constrained or ‘stuck qi’ This in turn is helping to release pent up emotions. Increased emotional expression is an indication that healing is taking place.

Another of the many acupuncture side effects is talking about your concerns etc. during your acupuncture treatment. This is another sign of emotional release. If you feel like talking about things during an acupuncture treatment then you should. Having a good chat and getting things off your chest is a good way of releasing pent up emotions and a sure sign that the acupuncture treatment is working.

All the acupuncture side effects that have been discussed here are no cause for concern. If any of the above acupuncture side effects seem like they are too extreme in any way at all, or if you notice any other negative reactions after you acupuncture treatment, you should contact your acupuncturist with your concerns.

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