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Am J Chin Med. 2002;30(1):45-50.

Does Deqi (needle sensation) exist?

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Department of Acupuncture and Meridianology, Graduate School of East-West Medical Science, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.


The mechanism, by which acupuncture works is not yet clear, therefore there is no unequivocal consensus about styles and sensations of needling. To enhance the scientific base of acupuncture, needling somehow should be objectified. The term Deqi is understood to represent all or at least the main form of phenomena to acupuncture stimulation. The characteristics of Deqi, however, have always been based on a translation of original Chinese description. Hoping to find a clue to develop sham (placebo) method for subject blinding, we investigated which sensations are frequently expected and experienced, and whether or not these expectations and experiences of sensations are similar in naive subjects. The acupuncture sensation scale developed by Vincent et al. (1989) was translated into Korean. Thirty-eight healthy acupuncture naïve female volunteers (mean age 29.1, range 25-39) were asked to complete the sensation scale of acupuncture according to what they expected needling to feel like before needling. Needling was done on left Hegu (LI4) point in the hand and consisted of insertion, stimulation for 30 seconds, and removal. Directly after needling, the subjects were asked to complete the same sensation scale according to what they experienced. The subjects expected to feel hurting, penetrating, sharp, tingling, pricking and stinging, and actually experienced aching, spreading, radiating, pricking and stinging more than 60% of the time. Comparison between expectation and experience, the subjects expected more penetrating, tingling, pricking and burning than they experienced, and on the contrary experienced more aching, pulling, heavy, dull, electric and throbbing than they expected. Traditionally described sensations of Deqi are something beyond just a general pain dimension in the Korean population. Further study involving acupuncture experienced subjects or subjects from other cultures need to confirm this finding. Moreover, sham acupuncture should be studied.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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