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Acupuncture ... Without Needles?

You have heard your friends and acquaintances tell you how much acupuncture has improved their quality of life, and they urge you to try it, but you just can’t get past the needles. Have no fear, there is a way to get around the needles.

If you are needle shy, or needle sensitive, you can still receive the benefits of acupuncture with other handy tools that your acupuncturist may have for people just like you. In my practice I have cold lasers, tuning forks, and a handheld TENS point locator, all which can be used to stimulate acupuncture points and provide needleless treatment. For children I used Shonishin tools which are small metal tools that are used to scratch or tap a child’s skin over acupuncture pathways, without inserting needles into the skin.

Cold Lasers

I typically use cold lasers for my very sensitive adult patients. Cold laser therapy is a way to reduce pain and stimulate healing using a low intensity laser. These lasers do not cause tissue to heat, using low levels of light (often red light photons). According to, cold lasers are FDA approved for the treatment of:

+ Acute and chronic pain

+ Ligament sprains

+ Muscle strain

+ Soft tissue injury

+ Tendonitis

+ Arthritis

+ Bursitis

+ Back pain

+ Carpal tunnel syndrome

+ Fibromyalgia

Cold lasers work by improving the health of damaged cells. The photons that are absorbed into the skin are thought to stimulate the mitochondria to accelerate the healing of damaged cells.

Tuning Forks

Tuning forks are one of the more popular, and requested, tools I use. This vibrational therapy enhances acupuncture treatment. I typically think to use tuning forks when I have a patient with anxiety, as this treatment is very good at helping people to relax and can be very grounding especially when used on the bottoms of the feet. Both children and adults love the feeling of the vibration on acupuncture points. I can use tuning forks as a stand alone treatment, and would be glad to do so for people who are too fearful of needles, although I typically use them in conjunction with acupuncture treatment to encourage a deeper state of relaxation.

Tuning forks are struck, then applied to acupuncture points or along acupuncture meridians to open the energetic pathways of the body. Vibration applied to acupuncture points is quite effective because sound waves travel well through water, and as we know, our bodies are about 75% water. Using tuning forks for vibrational therapy is both restorative and energizing, activating the natural current through the body. Some acupuncturists who use sound healing believe that tuning forks are even more powerful than acupuncture needles, some of my patients might agree!


TENS - transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation - are devices that deliver small electrical pulses to the body. These devices work because pain signals go to the brain via nerves and if the pain signals can be blocked by the electrical output from a TENS unit, the brain receives fewer signals of pain. While I rarely use the handheld TENS point locator, it is another way to stimulate acupuncture points for those who are needle sensitive.


For parents who are concerned about their child being needled, Shonishin is a specialized form of pediatric acupuncture. These tools and techniques come from Japan and are a gentle and effective way of treating infants and children (up to age 12) without the use of needles. While infants and children certainly can be treated with traditional acupuncture, it is often easier for a child to not have needles inserted, especially when they are a toddler or young child and it is difficult to sit still. Small metal tools are scraped, tapped or brushed along the meridians to achieve balance and treat illness.

Many acupuncturist’s offer tools such as these. If you are hoping to find a Chinese medicine practitioner who will be sympathetic to your needle-phobia or needle-sensitivity, call around to see what alternatives they might have to traditional inserted needles.

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