How To Cope With Acupuncture When You're Scared Of Needles

Health & Medical Blog

If you're afraid of needles, the idea of acupuncture may terrify you. Being punctured with one needle at a doctor's office can hurt and frighten, but multiple needles may seem unbearable. Thankfully, most acupuncturists understand that needles can frighten patients, and they've come up with a wide variety of ways to help you to cope with the needles or avoid them entirely while still receiving the benefit of acupuncture.

Smaller Needles

The first thing you should know about acupuncture is that the needles used in acupuncture are smaller and much finer than needles used for injections or drawing blood samples. Since no liquid needs to pass through them, the needles can be incredibly thin, with most being about the width of a single hair.

Germs and Safety

Perhaps you're not concerned about pain, but are anxious about germs and viruses being spread. There are two steps that acupuncturists take to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Cleaning the Site - Acupuncturists thoroughly swab your skin with alcohol or another disinfectant prior to placing the needle. This kills any nearby bacteria on your skin that could potentially infect the site.

  • Using Sealed, New Needles - Acupuncture needles are sold in air-tight blister packages that remain sealed until an acupuncturist needs them. A reputable acupuncturist will never use needles from an open package, and certainly never re-use needles someone else has had in them.

If you're anxious about germs, explain this fear to the acupuncturist and ask them to be extra diligent about cleaning your skin. You can also ask them to show you the package of needles before they open so you can be certain that it's sealed and safe.


While pain during acupuncture is rare, if you're particularly sensitive, you can apply a numbing agent prior to acupuncture. Topical anesthetics like products containing lidocaine or benzocaine are often sold at drug stores, either in liquid or cream form. You can apply these products to your body before you go in for a treatment to numb your skin and reduce the risk of pain.


If you still can't stand the idea of needles, ask your acupuncturist about auricular therapy. Auricular therapy is a form of acupressure that acupuncturists perform on the ear. Acupuncturists believe that placing a needle in certain parts of the ear can target other parts of the body, but using a needle isn't necessary. Acupuncturists use an item called an ear seed, which is a Vaccaria seed applied to a sticky bandage, to target specific areas of the ear without using needles at all. These ear seeds produce targeted pressure, achieving the same effect as acupuncture without a needle.

It's understandable to be anxious about needles, but it's still possible to have an acupuncture treatment with these tips. Remember to speak openly about your anxiety with your acupuncturist, so they can make suggestions and help you to have a safe treatment that's as painless as possible.


14 October 2015

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