What to Expect After Acupuncture


Is your symptoms worse after acupuncture? Do you feel pain worse after acupuncture? Do you have flu like detox symptoms after acupuncture?

When you are searching and reading this article means you may just had your acupuncture – likely the first one ever – and confused with changes of your symptoms after acupuncture. I have shortlisted the most common reactions after acupuncture, these patterns happen on patients over and over again from my 20+ years of practice.

Immediate Reactions After Acupuncture (the first 24-48 hours)

1. Relaxation: You may feel deeply relaxed which lasts for hours or even for a day. In such a state of relaxation, your concentration may be downgraded: following conversations or focusing in meetings become difficult, or simply can’t keep awake. As modern medical researchers have noticed a higher amount of endorphins (body’s natural morphine in the brain) is secreted after the acupuncture treatment, that may explain why you may experience a natural high after acupuncture.  The best thing you can do in this situation is rest – take it easy and having a nap afterwards or go to bed early. Y0ur body heals faster when you spend more time in a deep sleep state.

2. Emotions: Some patients would become more emotionally sensitive for a short period of time. I have seen patients cried for hours without any reason; grieving for something happened long ago or become irritated and can’t tolerate others. If you experiencing these reactions, congrats. You are emptying your emotional bucket that is timely and healthy. We all have an emotion container to bottle up our negative emotions from everyday stress. When the container is full, even the smallest drop of stress can make it overflow, that is why disproportionate emotional reactions occur at the slightest triggers. For many, they put heavy covers on the top of this emotion container, to hide their emotions from everyone. During the acupuncture session, this cover is melting away and emotions are streaming out. It is healthy to let the emotions set free from time to time. You might use this opportunity to start an in-depth emotional conversation with family or friends, or pause your life and find a quiet corner to absorb your emotions. After this period of emotional liberation -usually two or three days – you will feel lighter and more content with your life.

3. Pain Relief: Acupuncture is known for its instant pain relief. If you were treating acute pain or injuries,  you may experience a long-lasting pain relief after acupuncture. However, if you were treating chronic pain, you may notice the pain easing during the treatment session, but the pain comes back after a few hours or even return with a revenge.

In the Chinese medicine perspective, we look at energy flow within the body as the water flow in the pipelines in a building (when we know it is there, but we can’t see it). When there is a flood in the bathroom, we know there is blockage in the drainage. Similarly, when there is a pain, the Chinese doctor sees a blockage of energy flow. A chronic pain, to Chinese medicine, is a blocked drainage system, and pipes are rusted in the body. Acupuncture works like a plumper, apply pressure at a certain point to flush out the blockage, so the flow is restored and the pain has gone. However, because the pain (blockage) has been there for a long time, the inner layer of the pipe is rusted and attached much rubbish on it. When the flow restores, the rubbish loosens and start to move and block the flow again in sometime later. By then, the pain reoccurs as a worse pain or even moves to a “new” location. So as the acupuncture sessions are persistent the flushing work will continue until all the rubbish and rust are cleaned in the meridians.

Thus, if the pain worse after acupuncture, do not panic or worry, but take some sensible steps to help calm the pain, like resting, apply red flower oil locally, or take some painkillers if needed. It is important for the patient to give the doctor the feedback of how long the pain relief was last and any changes in the pattern or site of the pain.

4. Elimination: Some patients experience detox symptoms like more urination after the acupuncture session. Some have told me that they can’t stop going for a pee, up to ten times within one afternoon, without drinking more water. As you would expect, their bloating and water retention would be relieved significantly. Meanwhile, some may spot changes in their bowel movement: more frequent, increased volume, or stronger odour. Both signs of good eliminations indicate body elevates the level of metabolism, or in the Chinese term, a better energy flow in kidney and spleen meridians.

Long-term Reactions After Acupuncture

(2 – 4 weeks)
Running nose, sore throat and some cold symptoms may appear during the second or third week of an acupuncture treatment. In Chinese medicine, an unresolved cold or flu was the underlying cause of many health problems, like poor circulation, stiff neck and back and migraine. Running nose, fever and body ache is the natural response of body fighting with a cold or flu attack, like casualties and bombarded border during the war that defence force fight the enemy from invasion. When the drug is used improperly, symptoms do suppress but one’s health goes down, like a cease-fire at war by confiscation of weapons from the soldiers, and let the enemy loots the country. Once acupuncture treatment enhanced the immunity as if the army is armed ready to fight the invader again, cold and flu symptoms reappear. These symptoms usually last for a week; some Chinese herbs might be used for a faster healing.

Meanwhile, some patients may notice reappearing of many other symptoms, which bothered them previously but have forgotten for sometimes. It means the increased body energy expelling many underlying ailments. For example, reoccur of appendicitis or hemorrhoids that happened years ago. While the body is in a reversing process of healing, it often notices that the recurred symptoms are not causing as strong discomfort as a normal attack. Reassessment of patients condition and modify treatment plan would be required. It is important to let the practitioner know the previous history of illness may just happen to be remembered again.


  1. Gale says:

    I recently had acupuncture for lower back pain. The five needles was placed in my right ear. Right away I noticed pain relief in my lower back, and my mood increased the same of the accunpunture, I was able to stand straight up without help. I did have problems communicating, frequent ruination, I did runny nose and scratchy throat but I did feel my body fighting off the cold so it cold on last a few hours. Overall the acupuncture was worth it and I agree with articles, it’s pretty accurate about what am going through and been through.

  2. Rachael Reeves says:

    I had acupuncture to treat migraine. and felt very hot in the night and a migraine came for two days after the treatment. I’m hoping this will improve with more treatments.

    • Qiang Chen says:

      Hi Rachael, Thank you for sharing your experience. Indeed sometime it can flare up before getting better. I have witnessed many patients had the improvement of migraine by reduced intensity and frequency with a course of acupuncture treatments. All the best.

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