How do I know acupuncture is working?

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. In general, improvements in your symptoms can be a sign that acupuncture is working. Since acupuncture is commonly used to treat pain and stiffness related to an injury, you’ll know it’s working if you feel less pain and/or stiffness during or after your acupuncture treatments.

The effects of acupuncture can also vary significantly depending on the person and their specific injury. Some individuals get immediate relief from acupuncture, while others may experience relief later on after the appointment. The length of time relief lasts for also varies greatly. In some cases, acupuncture treatment may provide relief for multiple days, while in others it may only provide relief for a few hours.


Can acupuncture damage nerves?

 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. While acupuncture can technically damage a nerve, it is unlikely to cause long term injury.

Acupuncture needles are very thin, which means if they do puncture a nerve, it will be a minor injury. Furthermore, our body’s nerves have the ability to heal once they’ve been injured. 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.


What can I expect at my first acupuncture session?

When you visit a physiotherapist for acupuncture, they will need to perform a full physiotherapy assessment of you first. This will include both subjective and objective assessments. The subjective assessment will involve lots of questions and a detailed history of your current condition and goals. The objective assessment will involve lots of different movements to allow your physiotherapist to get an idea of what your physical condition is.

Once the assessment is complete, your physiotherapist will discuss their clinical findings with you and how acupuncture may help. Next, your therapist will discuss the potential risks of acupuncture. The most common risks include increased pain and bruising. Your physiotherapist must also rule out any contraindications you may have to acupuncture. If you’re currently pregnant or trying to get pregnant, or if you have any bleeding conditions or disorders, your physiotherapist may choose not to perform acupuncture or to only perform certain points.

Finally, your therapist will ask if you’ve had adverse reactions to needles or acupuncture before. If you answer yes, your therapist may request that you lie down for acupuncture, as this will reduce the likelihood of fainting.


Once you’ve gone through all of the prerequisites listed above, your therapist will have you position yourself comfortably to expose the area to be treated. If you haven’t got clothing that reveals the area, your physiotherapist may have you change into a gown. Your therapist will then get an alcohol swab to clean the area prior to inserting single use, sterilized needles.

This process is not usually painful as the needles are very thin, but you may feel a slight pinch and/or a dull ache. In some cases acupuncture can be painful, so don’t worry if you feel a sharp pain. Let your therapist know, and they will adjust or remove the needle. The acupuncture needles will stay in for around five to twenty minutes (sometimes even longer), and it’s very important that you don’t move during that time. Once the time is up, your therapist will remove the needles and dispose of them in a sharps container. You will also feel them apply pressure to the treated area to stop any bleeding that may occur.

After that you’re good to go, but take your time getting up and leaving the clinic to ensure you’re not dizzy or faint. Be sure to continue to drink lots of water and eat appropriately for the rest of the day! Finally, monitor your symptoms over the next few days to determine what kind of effect you’ve felt from the acupuncture.


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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