Southampton needle sensation questionnaire: development and validation of a measure to gauge acupuncture needle sensation

J Altern Complement Med. 2008 May;14(4):373-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2007.0714.


Objective: The specific sensations (deqi) generated during acupuncture are thought to be important for a positive clinical outcome, particularly when treating pain. It is important to be able to measure these sensations and discriminate between deqi and pain. A greater understanding of this will greatly aid researchers who wish to conduct mechanistic studies of acupuncture. Previous questionnaire designs failed to consider patient experience and, hence, may have been flawed. The aim of this study was to generate and validate a new sensation questionnaire, that was able to discriminate between pain and deqi, taking into account patient experience and expert opinions.

Design: The questionnaire was designed following qualitative interviews with patients, literature review, and consultation with experts. The questionnaire was piloted and then validated. It was successfully completed by 227 patients and analyzed using factor analysis and partial correlation.

Setting: Patients were recruited via the physical therapy department at Southampton General Hospital and from private practice clinics in and around the Southampton area.

Subjects: The subjects were patients receiving acupuncture for any condition.

Results: Two (2) factors were clearly demonstrated: "Aching deqi" (7 items) which suggested deqi with pain and "Tingling deqi" (7 items) suggesting deqi only. One (1) item related solely to pain and 2 further items did not load into any factor.

Conclusions: The final questionnaire is presented containing 17 items and is shown to be a valid, rigorous, soundly grounded, and patient-centered measure, capable of accurately recording deqi. We suggest that analysis should include a partial correlation of certain sensations against a pain visual analogue scale to ascertain how painful each sensation was, particularly if the questionnaire is to be used in a context in which pain and deqi need to be separated or their relationship clarified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Points*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Pain Threshold
  • Psychometrics
  • Qi*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • United Kingdom