As an acupuncturist, I find it absolutely important to make my patients feel at ease, especially if they have never tried acupuncture before. Pain is subjective. One might feel pain while another might not, and people might describe pain in different ways. So, I think it is better if I tell you what you should feel.
When you hear the word “needles” you might automatically think about the last time you got your blood drawn. Acupuncture is nothing like that. Acupuncture needles are extremely thin, very much like a thick strand of hair or cat whiskers. Another visual: you can fit 10 acupuncture needles inside the shaft of an injection needle! It's also very flexible, as you can easily bend it in half. They are sterile, single-use stainless needles that are tapped into the acupuncture point. Despite the needles' thinness, it is helpful to not look at them during insertion and just try to relax and breathe.
What it should feel like:
Different type of sensations can be felt but you should never feel pain or discomfort. You might feel a pinch when the needle is first inserted but it will go away right away. If at any time you feel pain, let your acupuncturist know. Acupuncturist can make adjustments accordingly. Don’t feel like its a “no pain, no gain” kind of deal because acupuncture doesn't work that way.
Some sensations you should feel are: comfortable pressure/throb, heaviness, soreness, warmth, or tingling. All of this this can be felt locally or in other parts of the body. When electro-stimulation are attached to the needles, these sensations may be enhanced. However, like mentioned before, these sensations should be comfortable and tolerable.
Acupuncture is and can be a very relaxing just like a spa treatment. I sometimes dim the light and play some relaxing music for my patients while the needles are being retained and let them snooze away. Keep in mind, the more tense and anxious you are the tighter your muscles contract. This might inhibit circulation and effect your body's healing process. Acupuncture is an amazing way to treat different types of diseases and I don't think needle fear should stop you from trying it. Remember, acupuncturist are here to help treat pain, not cause it.