(26 July 2000) -- Do the needles used in acupuncture hurt?
What do they look like? Find out the answers to these and other pointed
What do the acupuncture needles look like? Acupuncture
needles are solid, metallic needles (about the diameter of a human
hair, 0.2 millimeters) that vary in length, width of the shaft and
shape of the head. An acupuncturist may
use as many as nine types of acupuncture needles (although only six
are commonly used) by manipulating them by hand or by electrical
stimulation. Most needles are disposable. Once used, they are
discarded in accordance with medical biohazard regulations and
treatment, how many needles will be used? The
number of needles used varies, but usually 10 to 12 are sufficient.
Skilled acupuncturists may tend to use fewer needles.
the procedure painful? Acupuncture
is not painful, although there is a pricking sensation called deqi
(pronounced dah-chi) when the needles are inserted. You should tell
the acupuncturist if you experience pain or discomfort.
How deeply are the needles inserted? The
special needles used in acupuncture are not inserted deeply. The acupoints are
located just under the skin.
the needles cause me to bleed? In
the hands of a qualified acupuncturist, bleeding is an uncommon
complication. In one six-year study conducted at an acupuncture clinic
in Japan, there were fewer than two dozen incidents of minor blood
loss and "black-and-blue" marks as a result of injury to
happens after the needles are inserted? After
insertion, the acupuncturist begins needling the
acupoints (the term used to describe manipulation of the needles after
insertion) at an angle of 15 to 90 degrees relative to the skin
surface, depending on the treatment. Needling techniques include
raising and thrusting, twirling or rotation, a combination of
raising/thrusting and rotation, plucking, scraping (vibrations sent
through the needle) and trembling (another vibration technique). The
needling technique is selected based on the ailment. In addition to
needling, there are several other procedures, such as cupping or moxibustion,
which can be part of the acupuncture treatment.
Russo Jr., Pharm.D., is senior vice president of medical
communications at Vicus.com. He is a pharmacist and medical writer
with more than 20 years of experience in medical education.
This article was
updated on 26 July 2000.
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