Side effects of acupuncture you should know about

When you have an acupuncture treatment you likely go in with a specific issue in mind, such as eliminating pain or assisting with sleep; however, when you leave you can experience some other changes as well. Here are just some of the positive side effects you might notice after a treatment:

  • Better sleep
  • Appetite regulation
  • Improved digestion
  • More energy
  • Mood stabilization
  • Feelings of relaxation and contentment
  • Pain Relief
  • Stronger immunity
  • Quicker healing
  • Less prone to injury
  • Lower stress (cortisol) levels
  • Fewer headaches
  • Metabolism boost
  • Clearer skin
  • Milder or absent allergy symptoms
  • Mental Clarity
  • Improved libido
  • Better Circulation
  • Milder or absent PMS symptoms

Although acupuncture is beneficial overall and has many positive side effects, there are a few physical and emotional responses to be aware of that can occasionally occur after a treatment. While some of the side effects below are often seen as favourable, for some clients they might be overwhelming or surprising. It is important to be mindful of the following side effects so you can be prepared to address them should they arise:

Tenderness or tingling

Some of the most effective points to use in acupuncture are local points of tenderness. These points are referred to as Ah Shi points, which in Chinese literally means “That’s the point.”

Ah Shi points are especially effective in the treatment of pain and are often used in conjunction with local and distal acupuncture points.

Mild bruising

When needling certain areas of the body such as the face and other bony areas, mild bruising may occur. If bruising occurs, I recommend using Arnica and the bruise typically fades within three to four days.

Emotional Release

Acupuncture can unblock emotions. You may want to laugh or cry for seemingly no reason during or after an acupuncture treatment. This type of emotional release is natural and can last up to 3 days after your treatment. So often we ignore or distract ourselves from painful emotions, and acupuncture can bring some of that to the surface. Emotional processing is healthy, so while it might be challenging in the moment it will benefit you long term.

Lightheadedness or “Spacey”

One of my patients described this as a “total body high”. This can feel uncomfortable for some and a welcome relief to others. This feeling is only temporary and usually occurs during your first session.  The feeling is short lived and is quickly replaced by a sense of greater clarity for most people. I often suggest to my patients to take it easy for the rest of the day – clear your schedule and avoid physical activity.


While most people find that they have more energy after a treatment, sometimes people report feeling a bit fatigued. This is more common in the beginning of your treatment series and should subside by your third session.
This is often an indication that your body needs some rest. You may not realize just how exhausted you are until you are given permission to truly relax. Don’t despair, acupuncture combined with rest and a balanced diet will help build you back up.

Change to bowel & urination patterns

Acupuncture moves a lot of energy around. When you kink a hose, the water stops flowing. When you straighten the hose the built up pressure causes the water to burst out and normalize thereafter. This is essentially what can happen when you first receive an acupuncture treatment and your body is attempting to correct an imbalance.

Twitchy muscles

At times I intentionally needle into trigger points, which can cause a twitch response in your muscle. This is an effective technique for releasing muscle tension. Involuntary muscle twitches can be achy, but are temporary and shouldn’t be very painful.

While physiotherapists have adopted this acupuncture technique and call it intramuscular stimulation (IMS) or “dry needling”, I strongly recommend visiting a licensed acupuncturist for this procedure to ensure you are receiving a safe and effective treatment. For more information on IMS, click here.


Please call the clinic if you have any questions or if you would like to schedule an appointment.



About the Author: