How does acupuncture work?

Chinese medicine calls the energy that flows through the body qi. Chinese medicine practitioners believe qi disruptions create imbalances in the body’s energy that lead to illness.

Some forms of acupuncture aim to rebalance qi with needles that touch acupuncture points (acupoints) throughout the body. There are hundreds of acupoints in the body along 14 major meridians, also called energy-carrying channels.

The needles stimulate the body’s existing systems to:

  • React to an illness or symptom.
  • Rebalance the body.
  • Release natural chemicals, such as endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and neurotransmitters, chemicals that control nerve impulses.

What happens during an acupuncture treatment?

During the first appointment, the acupuncturist will talk to you about your condition. Then the provider will examine your body for areas that will react to acupuncture. The acupuncturist will tap the needles into points into your skin throughout the body.

The needles are sterile, disposable and as thin as a human hair. An acupuncturist inserts needles at various depths, from a fraction of an inch to a couple of inches. The needles stay in for a few minutes or as long as 20 minutes.

What does acupuncture feel like?

You may feel a small prick with each needle. It’s less painful than the feeling when you get a vaccine or blood draw. Acupuncture needles are much thinner than medical needles, and they are solid, not hollow.

The needles may cause some muscle sensations, such as dull ache or tingling. Your practitioner will ask you to report when you feel a deep heaviness or numbness. Those sensations usually mean the treatment is working.

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