How far do acupuncture needles go in?

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. Acupuncture needles are inserted directly into muscle. Once placed into muscle, the needles will remain there for a period of time to allow the effects to take place. The depth of needle insertion will vary depending on the specific point that is being used. For certain acupuncture points, the needles will only be inserted half an inch or even less. For other acupuncture points, the needles may be inserted up to 2.5 inches (e.g. glutes).


How many sessions does it take for acupuncture to work?

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 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. Furthermore, some individuals may not feel the benefits of acupuncture until they’ve had multiple sessions.

The amount of relief someone may feel from acupuncture 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. It can be helpful to try multiple sessions of acupuncture before deciding whether or not it’s helpful for you.


Why do I feel worse after acupuncture?

Acupuncture can cause different sensations among different people. Many individuals will feel relaxed and more comfortable with acupuncture. That being said, there are some individuals that may actually feel worse after acupuncture. Acupuncture has been shown to have significant effects on the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system regulates involuntary physiological processes, such as heart rate and blood pressure. This nervous system can be divided into 3 main components: the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, and the enteric nervous system. Activation of the sympathetic nervous system triggers a level of increased activity and attention, or a “fight or flight” response. This would include an increase in both heart rate and blood pressure. On the other hand, activation of the parasympathetic nervous system triggers a “rest and digest” response. This includes a decreased heart rate and blood pressure.

The enteric nervous system controls digestive functions, including muscle contraction/relaxation, secretion/absorption, and blood flow. Acupuncture can have significant impacts on both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This means in some cases acupuncture could trigger a fight or flight response, while in others it could trigger a rest and digest response.

For those experiencing a lot of relaxation from acupuncture, it may be related to a decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity or an increase in parasympathetic nervous system activity. In contrast, feeling worse after acupuncture may be related to an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity or a decrease in parasympathetic nervous system activity.

If you’re feeling worse after acupuncture, it may be worthwhile to try alternative treatment strategies for your specific condition.


What should you not do before/after acupuncture?

Acupuncture can make some individuals feel faint or light-headed. As such, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve had something to eat and drink before and after acupuncture. Don’t attend an acupuncture appointment on an empty stomach or without drinking fluids. After your acupuncture session is done, make sure to drink plenty of fluids and have something to eat. Furthermore, you may feel an aching sensation in the area that was treated with acupuncture. It’s a good idea to rest that area until that aching sensation settles.



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

Leave a Reply