Updated: Aug 16, 2019
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is a wonderful medicine, but alike all medicines, can produce some side effects. Less commonly we see some such as bruising and spot bleeding, but most of the time these effects can be POSITIVE! Some people may mistake these as negative, BUT the following listed below can be seen as positive! I know it sounds crazy, but for many patients, they get similar effects, which we solely put down to the healing journey.
1. Soreness and Muscle Twitching
Soreness and muscle twitching can be common during and from an acupuncture treatment depending on the placement of the needles and also the level of release. Soreness when the needle is in the point is an indicator to the practitioner that they have found the right point that is going to benefit your condition. We generally describe this as a dull sensation that can radiate through the body and even prevent a warmth as well. This in Chinese Medicine is known as 'De Qi', meaning 'the arrival of the qi' which is the movement of the energy into that point to promote healing. The points that generally give off this soreness are the ones located in the hands and the feet (due to lack of flesh), but are commonly the most powerful points within the treatment. Occasionally this sensation can last after the needles have been removed, but typically dissolves within 24hrs. The reasoning behind this is due to the point being released and energy coursing through it so eagerly.
Muscle twitching is another sensation that might be felt during and/or after treatment. During the treatment, if you experience a muscle twitch this is a signal that the practitioner has hit the accurate spot. The reasoning behind the muscle twitching is due to the involvement of the nervous system responding to the acupuncture through an involuntary twitch. These muscle twitches could be where the needles are placed, OR they could be in a total different muscle located at the other end of the body depending on what part of the nervous system is triggered. Of course this indicates a positive effect, however not so positive if you kick the practitioner in the face! The
2. Symptoms getting worse
While most people see a positive improvement following their acupuncture session, some people can feel worse. You might think, hang on a second this is a negative effect, but in fact it can be quite the opposite. This 'feeling worse before you get better' can be what is called a 'healing crisis'. This is where the body begins to repair itself, but in this process needs to let go of current and even underlying issues. Acupuncture taps into your energy (qi) to allow your body to self heal and occasionally this awakening can cause things to get stirred up. For example, one patient I was treating for digestion issues actually saw a flare in their digestive symptoms such as severe cramps, loose stool, indigestion, reflux etc. After the following few treatments these symptoms have decreased majorly, but that element of 'letting go' through an internal basis needed to happen before the body could start to continue to heal itself. This is a good sign that things are under way and that your healing is commencing.
Some people can feel quite wiped out after acupuncture but no need to worry this is just a kind reminder from your body. Acupuncture works on a physical and psychological level meaning that it is effecting your body in many ways to allow you to move along that healing path. If you are feeling fatigued after your acupuncture session, this just means that you need to rest. If you push through this feeling and ignore it, there is a possibility that you can increase your chances of getting sick, so take a step back, eat a nourishing meal and head to bed early that night. I can tell you in the morning you will be feeling as fresh as a daisy!
4. Relaxed State
Who wants to feel like they are floating on a cloud?! I know I do! During and after acupuncture it is super common to feel extremely relaxed (which is what every practitioner wants you to feel)! This is due to the acupuncture tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system to promote the natural functions of this system (relaxation, metabolism etc) instead of always being in that fight or flight state of the sympathetic nervous system. If you don't feel relaxed during or after a treatment, NOT TO WORRY, some people it takes a while to get use to the sensations of acupuncture and for some might feel the total opposite and want to bounce off the walls! For me personally in my weekly acupuncture treatments, somedays I can feel myself start to doze off into that relaxed state and then all of a sudden I am awake and ready for the day ahead. Whereas other days, I feel super chilled like I have slept like a baby for 3 hrs.
5. Emotional Release
Emotional release through acupuncture is quite common. If you are ever having a treatment and feel the need to release emotions through crying, laughing or any other way (maybe not screaming or chanting though :P) this is perfectly fine! This is seen to promote the free flowing of energy that we have been holding onto in our daily lives. This is a sign that the acupuncture treatment is working as it is promoting an emotional shift, which in turn may lead to a physical change in the near future as well.
These are some of the commonly seen, positive side effects of acupuncture. If you do experience any other sorts of side effects, please do contact your acupuncturist as soon as possible.