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Fear of acupuncture enhances sympathetic activation to acupuncture stimulation
  1. In-Seon Lee,
  2. Hee-Jin Jo,
  3. Soon-Ho Lee,
  4. Hyangsook Lee,
  5. Hyejung Lee,
  6. Hi-Joon Park,
  7. Younbyoung Chae
  1. Acupuncture and Meridian Science Research Center, College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  1. Correspondence to Professor Younbyoung Chae, Acupuncture and Meridian Science Research Center, College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, 1 Hoegi-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 130-701, Republic of Korea; ybchae{at}


Background Acupuncture treatment frequently evokes both pain and fear, causing patients to be hesitant about undergoing the procedure. This study investigated individual differences in autonomic response to acupuncture stimulation and its relationship to fear of the procedure.

Methods Twenty-seven participants filled out the acupuncture fear scale (AFS) questionnaire and underwent acupuncture stimulation at the LI4 acupuncture point. Autonomic responses were measured by recording the skin conductance response (SCR) throughout acupuncture stimulation. Pearson correlation analysis was performed between the self-reported AFS scores and changes in SCR.

Results After acupuncture stimulation, SCR significantly increased and there were greater individual differences in enhanced sympathetic activations to acupuncture stimulation. Changes in SCR correlated with scores for the painful sensation domain of the AFS.

Conclusions Our results indicate that fear of acupuncture-induced pain is associated with physiological arousal when people receive acupuncture stimulation. Fear of pain is the dominant factor in acupuncture-related fear and it should be considered in practice and in research.

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