I’ve never had acupuncture before; does it hurt? What happens during a treatment?

Inserting a needle
Inserting a needle

Acupuncture causes little to no pain. Some people report feeling a pinprick sensation that is similar to a mosquito bite, which dissipates immediately. Some people report no sensation at all. Some people report stronger “tingling” or “electric” sensations, which also subside quickly. Everyone is different and reacts in different ways, but the pins that acupuncturists use are hair-thin and feel nothing like what you would find in a doctor’s office or a tattoo/piercing parlor.

The visit starts with pulse taking
The visit starts with pulse taking

When you come in for a treatment, we will sit and talk first about you and what we can do to rebalance your life. I will then have you lie down on the treatment table to take your pulses and perhaps feel your abdomen to formulate a plan of treatment for you. That plan may or may not include acupuncture, moxabustion, guasha, cupping, bodywork, or any other modalities we use in Oriental Medicine and with which you are comfortable. I am versed in several different styles of acupuncture, so your particular experience will vary from others’. I may insert pins and leave you to relax for 15-20 minutes, or I may spend the entire session in the room with you employing other modalities as you need. I always welcome your feedback for what particularly worked for you during a session and what did not (after all, I will never stop learning in this field!).

I’ve heard rumors that you can do acupuncture without needles. Is this true?

Using a teishin instead of a needle

Yes! There are several ways to practice acupuncture without needles. Acupressure is, of course, one of those ways, but there are still other methods.

I use what is called a teishin–or a non-insertive “needle” used in Japanese meridian therapy to activate acupuncture points much the same way a needle inserted into the skin would. Instead of sliding under the surface of the skin, however, a teishin is held on top of the skin until the practitioner feels the desired change in your qi. This usually takes 10-30 seconds, and then the practitioner moves on to the next point.

Rice grain moxabustion

This method is just as effective as inserting pins into the body.

I can also use moxabustion (or simply “moxa”) on specific acupuncture points instead of needles. See the next question for a description of exactly what moxa is, but know that this method is also just as effective as inserting

Please feel free to request a non-acupuncture-needle acupuncture treatment if the thought of pins makes you nervous!

Moxabustion, guasha, cupping…what is all this stuff you keep talking about?

These are all different modalities wrapped up in the “Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine” package. I use any one (or more) of these as necessary in a full acupuncture treatment.

A few different kinds of moxa

Moxabustion – Or simply “moxa,” is an herb–mugwort–which is smoldered on or near the skin. Don’t worry: I don’t actually burn the skin itself (unlike some ancient Chinese practitioners would!). I remove the moxa before it reaches your skin and rub an extra protective layer of burn ointment on before lighting the moxa as a preventative measure. Mugwort is a powerful herb which, when burned, transfers its warming and healing properties deep within the body–deeper, even, than acupuncture needles. There are several ways to burn moxa, from rolling it into tiny rice-sized pillars, to making small pyramids, to burning it around the handle of a needle, to rolling it into a “cigarella” and holding the lit end near the body. All are warming and deeply relaxing, like dipping into a hot bath.

Guasha – Translating to the literal and somewhat scary-sounding “pushing and scraping,” guasha is a bodywork method used to release tight muscles, usually on the neck and back. Using a spoon or other dull edge, the practitioner rubs (or “scrapes”) the area of tightness to break up the stagnant blood and qi that is causing the pain (which is Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine speak for “it releases toxins and massages the muscles”). Generally, guasha feels fantastic–like a deep massage. Sometimes in more severe cases, the sensations can be intense during the treatment, but afterward the body invariably feels freer, looser, and more relaxed. Many people also find that some old emotions are gone or that they can breathe more easily. Guasha always leaves bruising that will clear away after a few days. After a guasha treatment, you should keep the area covered and drink a lot of water to flush away the toxins that were released.

Cups used for "cupping"
Cups used for “cupping”

Cupping – Similar to guasha in its purpose of releasing tight muscles and drawing toxins out to be flushed away through the skin, cupping is the practice of using glass suction cups on a patient’s back and shoulders. It’s a very relaxing part of the treatment as it gently pulls on tight and sore muscles, although the bruising that occurs will make you look like you got in a fight with an octopus (and won!).

Teishin – Described above, a teishin is a non-insertive acupuncture “needle” that is held on the skin instead of going into the skin. It is just as effective as inserting pins, but of course, it takes longer because the practitioners can only do one point at a time.

Asian bodywork – Acupuncturists are not licensed massage therapists, but we are trained in a number of Asian bodywork (“massage”) techniques. These techniques feel like a typical massage, but the practitioner incorporates knowledge of acupuncture meridians and acupuncture theory in how and where they choose to “massage” the body.

Do you accept insurance?

Yes! You can see if your plan covers insurance by clicking here. I’ll get back to you within a week and we can chat about your options.

Verify Your Insurance


If your plan does not cover acupuncture, I do not turn anyone away because of inability to pay. I offer community acupuncture clinic for a low-cost sliding scale fee, and if that time slot isn’t feasible, we can discuss other options on a case by case basis.

Serving Southwestern Pennsylvania
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