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Fear of Needles and Acupuncture

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

For some an added bonus of trying acupuncture is an opportunity to overcome a fear of needles.

When people ask what I do and I tell them I am an acupuncturist, it is not uncommon for someone to respond with some variation of, “I have a fear of needles.” This response always makes me smile for I too had a longstanding fear of needles! When I was a child the nurses used to line up to greet me at the doctor’s office when I came in for shots. They lined up not because I was a celebrity but because they were on standby to help hold me down on the table for the shot. This later evolved to a fear of having blood drawn and having to find creative ways to receive shots so as not to get dizzy or faint.

The first time I was exposed to acupuncture, while living in Sri Lanka, I walked into a community acupuncture room where women were seated with needles sticking out of their head, back, arms, and legs. I don’t know that I actually took in the scene fully because my fear response kicked in and sent me quickly in the other direction. I adamantly told the doctor I was visiting at the time he could do anything he wanted for treatment, but no needles. You can imagine my surprise when many years later I felt called to study acupuncture after benefiting from treatment following an injury studying Thai massage. After receiving a few acupuncture treatments in Thailand and handling them relatively well, I returned to Sri Lanka and visited the same doctor from before, this time requesting an acupuncture treatment. This was a critical step in my personal journey of overcoming my fear of needles as well as pursuing the art of Chinese medicine.

The first week of acupuncture school I saw a picture of a patient with a needle sticking out of their forehead as I walked down the hall and had to look the other way. Imagine my challenge of having to needle myself for the first time and then allowing others to needle me during techniques class. A bonus as a student practitioner was that I understood working with individuals who had a fear of needles.

Three and half years later, I graduated from the Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program and while still not crazy about needles have a new relationship with the power of acupuncture. It is this insight I carry forward as an acupuncturist. The style of acupuncture practiced at GoodMedizen utilizes very few, carefully selected, points. This is ideal for anyone with any type of concerns about needles. One of the mantras around here, when it comes to selecting points, is “less is more.” Simply put, we are often able to get great results with just a few needles.

Both spiritual and self-help rhetoric suggests the best way to overcome fear is to confront it. I have heard one teacher say, “stare fear in the face and then give it two slaps.” While slaps might appear aggressive, to me, the image is figurative and invites action to help shake up the often paralyzing effect of fear. If the ultimate way to stare fear in the face is to do what we are most afraid of, next time you recognize yourself avoiding acupuncture for fear of needles, I invite you to reconsider and stare fear in the face. Give it two slaps by scheduling a consultation or first appointment with a practitioner in your area. From my own experience, I believe the potential benefit of acupuncture far outweighs the fear preventing exploration of this healing modality. Find a practitioner you resonate with and do not be afraid to let them know you have a fear of needles. As practitioners, we can work with you to overcome your fear and gain optimal benefit from your treatment.

The icing on the cake… relaxation. Deep relaxation is a common bonus of treatment that surprises most people, and keeps them coming back for more acupuncture. Even those individuals who are needle sensitive. So, in choosing to step out and overcome a fear of needles, you may also help heal an ailment and experience a new level of relaxation.

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