Can an acupuncture needle hit a nerve?

With acupuncture, there are some important risks that you should be aware of prior to receiving treatment. One such risk is that the needles can hit another tissue other than muscle. In some cases, the needles may hit a blood vessel, such as a vein or artery (very rare), or even a nerve. If a needle hits a vein, you will likely feel a pinching sensation, and there will be some bleeding. Your therapist will provide pressure to the wound once the needle is removed to stop the bleeding. You may have a bruise after and more pain.

If a needle hits an artery, there will be a lot of pain and a very significant amount of bleeding and bruising. It may take a few minutes of pressure to the wound before the bleeding stops. Note that this is very rare, as arteries are deeper within the body and thicker than veins, which makes them harder to pierce. Furthermore, only certain acupuncture points are near blood vessels and nerves, while the majority of them will not create a significant risk. If an acupuncture needle hits a nerve, you will likely feel a painful burning or tingling sensation.

Once the needle is removed, that sensation should go away but it can linger depending on how much the needle has impacted the nerve. Fortunately, our body’s nerves and blood vessels have the ability to heal once they’ve been injured.

Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that is often used to treat stiffness and pain. It involves the use of very thin needles to puncture the skin. The needles are placed in specific points around the body depending on the condition that is being treated. The placement points of acupuncture needles may also vary depending on the healthcare provider that you choose to see.

Acupuncture may be performed by acupuncturists, as well as physiotherapists. Only physiotherapists who are rostered to perform acupuncture with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario will be able to use acupuncture with their clients. In order to roster, physiotherapists must demonstrate they have the appropriate training and skills to safely perform acupuncture.

Physiotherapists may also use slightly different points for needle insertion than acupuncturists, as their treatment techniques may be different. While there will be significant overlap, acupuncturists often insert needles both close to and far away from the injury site. On the other hand, most physiotherapists will focus their needles around the injury site. While both methods can be effective, it’s important to note that some needles may be placed further from the area of concern but can still have a significant effect. 

Acupuncture can also pose other risks, and caution should be taken if you have any bleeding conditions or disorders, or if you’re currently pregnant or trying to get pregnant. It’s important to discuss all of the risks and benefits of acupuncture with your healthcare provider prior to receiving the treatment.


Do acupuncture pens really work?

Acupuncture pens can be used to stimulate the needles once they’ve been inserted into the body. The stimulation is a form of electrotherapy that triggers contractions within the muscles. Similar to regular acupuncture, some individuals find acupuncture pens are very helpful, while other individuals don’t feel as much of a benefit.

It’s a good idea to try regular acupuncture first, prior to trying an acupuncture pen. Since the acupuncture pen will cause muscle contractions, it can also create more soreness and discomfort than regular acupuncture. That being said, in some cases it can be more effective than regular acupuncture.

If your pain levels are relatively low and acupuncture hasn’t made you sore or had a significant impact on your injury, it may be a good idea to try an acupuncture pen next. They can also be used to help treat nerve injuries.

With a significant nerve injury, your body will have a very hard time contracting the muscles that the injured nerve controls. As such, the acupuncture pen can be used to help stimulate the nerve and the muscles that have been impacted from a nerve injury. So, acupuncture pens can be helpful, but the results may vary depending on the person and their specific condition.


Still not sure what to expect with acupuncture? Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your injury. 



Liam Newlands

Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance

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