Acupuncture Needles and Why They Don’t Hurt

Posted on Aug 13, 2012

Acupuncture Needles

For most new acupuncture patients the topic of acupuncture needles is their most prominent concern. They may discuss a fear of needles and then ask whether acupuncture needles hurt.  In most cases they have had no previous exposure to the practices of traditional Chinese medicine so their fears or concerns are based on past experiences with modern Western medicine.  They may have had an unpleasant experience when they had a vaccination or some blood was drawn.  That experience may be at the root of their fear of needles or the memory of the pain it caused but it is far removed from anything they will experience with acupuncture based on the difference in the needles used in an acupuncture treatment.

This is the point in our discussion where I help them understand that while they may notice the needles cause a slight pricking sensation it is hardly noticeable by comparison to those used for blood tests or immunizations. The initial sensation is also quite short in duration despite the fact that they stay in the skin for a period of 15 to 30 minutes.

Acupuncture Needles: Sterile One-Time Use

Much like the needles your doctor uses, all of the needles used in my acupuncture treatments are sterile, used only one time, and then discarded into a safe container where they remain until I dispose of them permanently.  They are never used more than once and every precaution is taken that they remain sterile until use.  The means of discarding them assures everyone that there is no contamination from previous patients.

The pain associated with needles has to do with their size and the resulting tissue damage or tearing during insertion.  The thinner the needle, the less discomfort.  Just as western medicine has different needles for different uses, acupuncture needles come in different gauges or thicknesses and lengths.  The issues being treated determine which needles are used for the treatment but in all cases acupuncture needles are much smaller than a typical syringe needle.

Acupuncture Needles: Designed for Comfort

Acupuncture needles are prepared with a silicone coating which allows them to glide very smoothly into the skin and significantly minimize any tissue damage.  They are solid, not hollow, and have a finely tapered point, as opposed to a beveled cutting-edge point.  By design, they are created for the purpose of comfort for the patient.  When compared to hypodermic needles which are primarily designed to be fluid delivery systems and not necessarily comfortable, they are quite thin and thread-like, almost like a thin piece of wire.  In fact, acupuncture needles are so thin that an acupuncture needle can actually fit within the hollow of a standard blood-drawing needle.

Most acupuncture patients would tell you that acupuncture is essentially painless.  While some may experience a slight pinch as the needle is inserted, many feel nothing at all.






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