I walked into acupuncture with a firm grasp of the concerns and conditions the ancient Chinese medicine practice treats — period cramps, anxiety, fertility issues, allergies. What I didn't fully understand was how I'd feel once the needles were removed and I hopped off the table.
Would there be side effects? Would I feel pain where the needles were placed on my skin?
Coincidentally, I did develop some soreness, and soon thereafter, began frantically Googling to find out if I should be concerned — a habit I really need to break for my own sanity.
Turns out, it's a fairly infrequent side effect, but also nothing to worry about.
Ahead are five things you might experience after you leave your acupuncturist's office. Spoiler: most are pretty positive.
Relaxation and Rejuvenation
After acupuncture, my entire body felt loose. My limbs felt heavy. It was like all tension had evaporated from my muscles. It was a foreign feeling, and perhaps a sign I don't relax enough. At the same time, I felt content and happy. Nothing was stressing me out — not even the fact that I got a text from my boyfriend that my dog had an accident again.
However, you can consider this side effect more of a side benefit, Auth explained.
"The most common after-effect of acupuncture is relaxation and rejuvenation," she said. "This is because acupuncture treats both stress and fatigue."
A Boost of Energy
Fighting fatigue, some experience a boost of energy after acupuncture.
"In fact, acupuncture has shown in scientific studies to increase energy in even the toughest cases, including those suffering with cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome," she added.
A Reduction in Symptoms
You can consider this the most ideal side effect.
"Depending on why you are coming in, you may notice a reduction in symptoms — such as if you're coming in for shoulder pain, your pain may feel lessened or even gone," Auth said.
If allergies are bothering you, perhaps you might feel a lessening of congestion. And if you struggle with insomnia, Auth noted, you might experience a better night's sleep.
Auth classified soreness as less common compared to the above, but some do experience mild discomfort.
"Certain points in some people can be more sore — we've found that points on the hands and feet are more likely to be sore or sensitive because there are more nerve endings," she said.
Auth compared it to the muscle soreness you might feel after a massage.
"If your treatment is targeting a release of a tight muscle, then the muscles at the site where the acupuncture needles are inserted and the release occurs may feel sore after the needles are removed. This is especially common in a trigger point acupuncture session, where the muscle is manipulated to get the release."
If you do feel sore (like I did), know it usually disappears within 24 hours. Auth suggested drinking a lot of water or taking a hot bath or a shower after to reduce the soreness.
Even less common than soreness, some might experience bruising at the site where the needle was placed.
"This is normal but not common, and is usually due to the needle hitting a capillary," Auth said. "Other than the aesthetic concerns, bruises are generally not something to be concerned about. Applying arnica (a homeopathic remedy that we provide to clients in the studio) topically to the bruise may speed up the healing process."