Medical acupuncture

Use of fine needles for pain prevention and relief

HCA UK experts explain how acupuncture works and the types of pain it can help to relieve.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture originates from Chinese medicine and involves fine needles being inserted into the body to stimulate the nerves in the skin and muscles to prevent and treat pain. This results in the body producing natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins.

It is an effective treatment for headaches, migraines, joint pain, chronic pain, dental pain and pain after an operation.

Need to know

  • What happens during acupuncture? icon plus

    Acupuncture needles are fine and solid, so they can enter your skin easily and relatively painlessly. The needles are inserted into specific parts of your body, called acupuncture points. These stimulate nerves in your skin and muscles to produce natural painkillers, including endorphin and serotonin, which help to relieve pain.

    Your consultant may twirl the needles and ask you to say when you feel a different sensation such as mild aching, heaviness, numbness or a tingly feeling. The needles are generally left in place for 20 to 30 minutes. You should feel comfortable and relaxed, and you may fall asleep.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Treatments vary in length, but usually last around 20-40 minutes. You will need to remove some of your clothes and lie on your front, or sometimes sit down.

    There is no set number of needles to use – your consultant will treat you on an individual basis. How far the needles are inserted into the body will depend on what you’re being treated for. Sometimes the needles sit just under the skin, or they may go in deeper if they need to reach muscle tissue. They are usually left in place for anything from a few minutes to half an hour.
  • After treatment icon plus

    Acupuncture is generally not painful, however you may feel some tingling sensations or a dull ache.

    It’s usually most effective to have a course of treatment – your consultant can advise on what’s best, but a typical course will be around five to eight sessions.

    Acupuncture is a quick, safe treatment with few side-effects when carried out by a fully-qualified professional. You can leave immediately afterwards and return to normal activities.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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