Fear of Needles and Acupuncture

How to Overcome Your Fear of Needles and Acupuncture

Is your fear of needles preventing you from taking advantage of the many benefits of acupuncture? Many people have some degree of needle phobia, but fortunately, the fear can often be managed with a few techniques that reduce anxiety and stress.

Familiarizing Yourself with Acupuncture Practices is the First Step

Do you picture hypodermic needles when you think about acupuncture? Although large hollow needles are needed for drawing blood or injecting a flu vaccine, hypodermic needles are much too big for acupuncture treatments. In fact, acupuncture needles are about as thin as 2 strands of hair and bend at the slightest touch.

Needles are used for clearing blocked meridians that carry Qi, a life force necessary for good physical and emotional health. Unlike hypodermic needles, acupuncture needles don't have to be inserted deeply to be effective. Although some people report a very slight pinching sensation when the needles are first inserted, many people don't feel anything at all. Once the needles are in place, you might notice a warm, tingling or heavy feeling as the Qi is unblocked and begins to flow through your body.

6 Techniques That May Help Relieve Your Fears

Needle phobias can often become overcome, thanks to several techniques designed to reduce fear. If you're eager to try acupuncture, try one or more of these fear-reducing techniques:

  • Treatment at Your Preferred Pace. Some patients feel more relaxed if only a few needles are used during the initial treatment, or the needles are left in place for a short time. As you become more comfortable with acupuncture, additional needles can be inserted as needed. Your acupuncturist wants to make treatment a positive experience for you. If you feel anxious or uncomfortable at any point during the treatment, let him or her know.
  • Closing Your Eyes. This simple solution can be very helpful if you're worried that the sight of the acupuncture needles will cause you to faint or decide that the treatment isn't right for you.
  • Applied Tension. If you're concerned about fainting during your treatment, you may want to try applied tension. Fainting can occur when fear causes your blood pressure to drop. Applied tension raises your blood pressure, reducing the likelihood of fainting. Immediately before your acupuncture treatment, tense your leg, arm, abdominal and chest muscles and hold the tension for about 15 seconds. After you repeat the technique two or three times, you'll probably notice that your face or head feels warm. Warmth is a sign that your blood pressure has increased. A systematic review published in The Clinical Journal of Pain noted that applied tension offered impressive long-term effects for prevention of fainting.
  • Hypnosis. Hypnotherapy provides an effective treatment option for many people who have needle phobias. If you can't find a therapist who offers hypnosis near you, take a look at one of the many self-hypnosis videos available on YouTube.
  • Deep Breathing. Deep breathing triggers the body's relaxation response and can help you feel calmer during your acupuncture sessions. Breathe in deeply through your nose, hold the breath for three or four counts, then slowly exhale through your mouth.
  • Imagery. Picturing a place that makes you feel relaxed can reduce anxiety and stress. Whether your favorite spot is the beach, a mountaintop or your own living room, visualization techniques can help you stay calm during your treatment. Imagery is often combined with deep breathing exercises.

Would you like to try acupuncture, but are concerned that your fear of needles will make treatment impossible? We provide a caring, supportive environment and will take the time to help ease your fears. Call us to schedule your first appointment.


The Seattle Times: Relaxation Techniques Help Fearful Patients, 7/14/10


Psych Central: Using Applied Tension for Blood and Needle Phobias


The Clinical Journal of Pain: Interventions for Individuals with High Levels of Needle Fear, 10/31/15


Pacific College of Oriental Medicine: The Top Reasons People Don't Get Acupuncture (and Why They Should)



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