Acupuncture needles can feel uncomfortable at times, they rarely hurt. They are very thin (only about three times the thickness of a human hair and much finer than the hypodermic needles used to give injections) and are designed to enter the skin with little resistance.
Once the needles are inserted (generally from one to 15 are used), the acupuncturist may twist them manually or send a weak electrical current through them to increase the energy flow. The needles are left in for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the ailment. Some practitioners also use moxibustion, which involves heating the needles or acupoint with a slowly burning herbal agent (primarily the dried herb mugwort) to hasten healing.
Most people will say acupuncture rarely hurts. Different people experience different sensations from acupuncture. Some describe a tingling pins-and-needles feeling, others feel numbness or nothing at all. Most find the sessions relaxing, and many fall asleep during or immediately after treatment. Some patients notice rapid improvement after just a few sessions. In those whose conditions have taken years to develop, treatment would take longer. Today more innovative applications for acupuncture are being explored by both conventional and alternative practitioners, including its use as an analgesic to reduce pain during surgery.