Simple question with a rather complex answer. When it comes to measuring an individual’s pain tolerance it can be compared to “how long is a piece of string?”. Given that everyone feels pain differently we then need to add the practitioner to the formula as there are many styles of acupuncture. So the best solution is to choose acupuncture that suits you.
If you have a fear of needles it is unlikely you will be drawn to acupuncture but if you feel you must use acupuncture then maybe laser acupuncture is for you. Instead of needles a laser device which uses a low-energy laser beam. I would describe the sensation as being similar to the feeling of a mosquito bite.
The smallest needles used are in Japanese acupuncture. The needles are so thin and placed so superficial in the skin that many people report not even feeling the needle being inserted. The Japanese style of acupuncture has been shown to be as effective as any other style.
Traditional Chinese acupuncture uses a slightly thicker needle. Even so the needles make a hypodermic needle look like a rolling pin in comparison. Although some therapists use superficial treatments, many Chinese practitioners will place the needle deeper into the body and twirl or manipulate them to improve energy flow. This can be quite uncomfortable if not painful.
Over the years I have been treated by all styles and although I don’t like pain will return to the practitioner who gives me those most relief. For different ailments I have used different styles. If it doesn’t help go back. My philosophy is “the treatment can’t be as bad as the ailment”. What’s yours?