FAQs: acupuncture needles

Here is everything you need to know about the instruments used by practitioners.
By John Russo Jr./Vicus.com
VICUS.COM (26 July 2000)  Do the needles used in acupuncture hurt? What do they look like? Find out the answers to these and other pointed questions. 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 guidelines.

Effect of pycnogenol on ascorbic acid (vitamin C) During 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.

Effect of pycnogenol on ascorbic acid (vitamin C) Is 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.

Will 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 blood vessels.

What 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.

John 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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